On December 14th 2010, Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly confirmed that Epsom County Court is to close. This was despite a number of representations opposing the closure, and a recommendation from a senior judge that the closure should be reconsidered (see below).
We have issued the following response in a press release:
EPSOM AND EWELL CAB CRITICISES COURT CLOSURE
Epsom and Ewell CAB has criticised the decision to close Epsom County Court and transfer cases to Guildford and Reigate. Epsom is a modern Court and was recently refurbished. It has an expensive lease which does not have a break clause until 2017.
Tom Sheriff, manager of Epsom and Ewell CAB, said 'closure of the court will significantly reduce access to justice for local residents. Many of our most poor and vulnerable clients will find it difficult to travel to Guildford and Reigate. I am particularly worried that more people will lose their homes as a result.'
Epsom and Ewell CAB also questioned the financial benefits projected from the closure. Mr Sheriff added 'when all factors are taken into account- the long lease, the recent cost of refurbishment and the possible costs to the borough of re-housing more homeless families - it is not clear that there will be significant financial savings overall'
15 December 2010
In response to a request from the Lord Chief Justice, the Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales Lord Justice Goldring hsought views on the consultation paper and said in his representations to the Department of Justice that the proposed closure of Epsom County Court is not supported:
"This modern court was only moved to its present location 2 years ago, at considerable expense; HMCS has a lease on the building with no break clause until 2017. Annual rent is in the region of £200,000 a year and the only permitted use is as a court.
I consider that with a more flexible approach to boundaries and deployment the excellent facilities at this court could be used in a more efficient way. For example, there is some spare capacity in terms of courtrooms which, given Epsom's proximity to London, should provide scope for work to be transferred from the South end of the area. There may also be scope for the Tribunals Service to use part of the building. Alternatively, the Dorking Area Office could be moved into the second floor library at Epsom and the Dorking premises vacated.
Public transport links are poor to the rest of the county; for example, to get to Reigate (to which it is suggested work should go) it would be necessary to take two trains and a bus, making it difficult for litigants using the family courts. Epsom has far quicker links to parts of South London and it is easier (and cheaper) to get to Croydon.
More work is required before this excellent, modern, facility is disposed of."
Material from the Judiciary of England and Wales is Crown Copyright