ANGRY magistrates are threatening to quit if government plans to scrap Dudley's criminal court get the go-ahead.

A consultation is under way on the future of Dudley Magistrates Court which could result in the end of criminal cases being dealt with in the town.

However magistrates based at the court say they are annoyed by the proposal from HM Courts and Tribunal Service, which could mean from January 1 only civil and tribunal cases will be heard in Dudley. Criminal cases would be transferred to other Black Country towns as far away as Wolverhampton.

Magistrate Chris Smith said: “Many local magistrates have already said that they will not be prepared to make longer journeys to other courts - especially bearing in mind that we get no pay whatsoever for carrying out these duties.”

Dudley North MP Ian Austin is leading a campaign calling for the scheme to be scrapped and has been contacted magistrates including Colin Knipe, Ex-Chair of Dudley Magistrates, who said: “Lots of Dudley magistrates are seriously considering resigning. They are incensed because the only magistrates in the Black Country who have not been consulted about where they wish to sit next year are the 100 plus Dudley magistrates.”

Last week Mr Austin along with other protestors handed in a petition containing 1,200 names at Dudley Magistrates calling for the court to continue dealing with crooks.

Ian Austin said: “These comments from local people deeply involved in Dudley’s criminal court show just how much damage the government’s plans will do to local justice in our area.

“They are repeating my concerns that moving criminal hearings move elsewhere it will be harder for local victims to testify, harder for local people to volunteer in court and harder for the press to deter crime by reporting on local cases.

“The government’s plans would make Dudley the largest town in the UK without a criminal court when we should be moving more services into the town centre, not taking them away."

The Courts and Tribunal Service has declined to comment until they have assessed the results of the consultation, which closed on October 21.