Borough to lose its only court

Waltham Forest Magistrates' Court

Waltham Forest Magistrates’ Court

The only court in the borough will close, the government has announced.

The closure of Waltham Forest Magistrates’ Court in Forest Road, Walthamstow, will save taxpayers £358,000 a year. But it means defendants and their lawyers must travel four miles to the next nearest magistrates’ court in Stratford.

The Ministry of Justice justified the closure by highlighting that the court was currently being used to only one third of its capacity, and that most people in Waltham Forest could reach Stratford within an hour.

Ten magistrates’ courts in London, and 86 across the country, are now due to close. Waltham Forest will be one of the first to shut down, between October and December this year.

In its report outlining reasons for the closure of Waltham Forest Magistrates’ Court, the government’s HM Courts and Tribunals Service stated: “It is acknowledged and accepted that some people will need to travel further to reach their nearest court, however for the majority of people the closure will have little impact.

“We are mindful of the infrequency with which people need to attend court, and 76 percent will be able to reach Stratford Magistrates’ Court within an hour.

“We are reforming the system so that fewer people will need to physically go to court. For example, through making better use of technology, including video conferencing.”

It was also stated that merging courts at one location would “improve efficiency and enable further savings to be made” because “larger buildings can facilitate more flexible and efficient listing of cases”.

Bow County Court, another East London court which hears many local family and divorce cases, is also due to close. The news has been greeted with dismay among law and justice organisations.

Jo Edwards chairs Resolution, a campaign organisation that represents 6,500 family lawyers. She said: “This is devastating news.

“Closing courts may make sense on a government spreadsheet, but the reality is that on the ground it will have a profound impact on local people who require courts.”