JP said Pontefract court closure was ‘criminal’ act

Malcolm Clowson
Malcolm Clowson

The closure of Pontefract Magistrates’ Court was a ‘criminal offence’, claimed a retired magistrate.

Malcolm Clowson, 70, took a parting shot at the centralisation of the justice system as he retired from the bench after 31 years.

The former chairman of the Pontefract Bench recently hit out at the closure of the town’s courthouse in March 2013 and the move to a merged court in Wakefield. The historic courthouse on Front Street was earmarked for closure in 2010 despite more than 1,100 people backing the Express’s ‘Keep Justice Local’ campaign.

Mr Clowson, of South Kirkby, said: “I’ve always believed in local justice for local people. That’s why I became a magistrate.

“The closure of Pontefract (Magistrates’ Court) to me was a criminal offence because it stopped local justice for local people.

“There are people at the other side of Pontefract, where I come from, South Kirkby; Upton, Knottingley - they all now have to come across to Wakefield.”

He also complained about the relocation of Wakefield Police Station last summer to a site on the border of Normanton and Featherstone, which is difficult to access by public transport,

He said: “They don’t make things easy for people. Some people may think it shouldn’t be easy, but these are the poorest people in our communities who are affected by the changes made.”

The future of Wakefield and Pontefract Magistrates’ Court is also uncertain. It has lost its Saturday court to Leeds and the magistrates rota is expected to be centralised to Leeds in the New Year.

But an HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokesperson said: “Pontefract Magistrates’ Court closed in March 2013 following a public consultation. The standard of accommodation and the facilities - especially the cells which were not usable - at the court fell short of the minimum requirement for the provision of services expected by our customers. All criminal cases transferred to Wakefield Magistrates’ Court which has better facilities. The distance between Pontefract and Wakefield is less than ten miles and there is a good transport network linking the two.

“From next year the arrangements for allocating magistrates rotas for court sittings will be centralised in Leeds. This will make a more efficient system and will have no effect on the listing of cases in the courts or which courts magistrates will sit at.”