The negative consequences of closing Banbury’s courts have been made clear during a parliamentary meeting.
North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis used the justice select committee’s evidence session for its inquiry into court reform to ask legal experts about the impact of the closure in March.
Travel times were described by the witnesses – a leading barrister practising in family law and a representative of Women’s Aid – as unacceptable for court users, particularly in family courts.
The meeting heard that the cost, practicality and complexity of getting to Oxford is a barrier to vulnerable people, who need to access family courts.
They also touched upon domestic abuse victims who may have fled to escape abuse, and no longer live near the support of family and friends.
After the session on June 11, Mrs Prentis said: “It was important to find out more about the impact of changes on my constituents.
“The closure of Bicester and Banbury magistrates’ courts is clearly putting pressure on the system, and availability in Oxfordshire.
“I’m very worried about vulnerable users who are having to travel to Oxford from the north of the county and will continue to pursue the possibility of mobile courts.”
Since the closure of Banbury Magistrates’ Court, Mrs Prentis arranged a meeting with magistrates and ministers to discuss the impact of closures, including the possibility of a mobile court system.
As part of the evidence session, she also asked panellists about the possibility of mobile family courts and was pleased that they agreed it would be worth looking into.
They highlighted the importance of having a local hub as long as it provides security, IT infrastructure and judge availability.