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Issue 321 – “Frome Magistrates Court will go and it will never come back!”

THE closure of Frome Magistrates’ Court is moving ahead, but a Frome solicitor is dismayed at the lack of action from key figures in the town, where he says everyone is rolling over and accepting it as ‘inevitable’.

The decision to close the court was announced last December by Justice Minister, Jonathan Djangoly, despite a review by Lord Justice Goldring who said he could not justify the closure of Frome Court.
John Killah, a Frome solicitor who has been fighting against the closure, says the only hope left is that someone takes proceedings for judicial review to stop the closure. He said, “The shame is that whilst other courts such as Bridgwater have an MP and a bench that is fighting their corner, in Frome everyone is rolling over and accepting it as ‘inevitable’. A court has been sitting in Frome for hundreds of years – it is about to go and it will never come back.”
John Killah says that the local Bench (now South Somerset and Mendip Magistrates Court) has so far chosen to do nothing to prevent the closure. He describes the efforts by the Mayor of Frome, cllr Helen Sprawson-White, as “great” but feels that local councillors, the chairman of the local Bench and local MP should be asked why they do not support the views of Lord Justice Goldring and take immediate action by getting together and applying for judicial review, as many others are doing.
John Killah said, “David Heath, once the champion of local justice is now silent on the issue of the court closure, Mendip District Council were invited to consider taking proceedings for judicial review – and declined to do so, instead electing to write a letter of protest to the MP and local government.”
However, Claire Hudson, Leader of the Mendip Liberal Democrats, warned that a judicial review would be a significant cost to taxpayers. “Mendip councillors are really concerned about the decision to close the magistrates court and have said so frequently,” she said. “We did not vote for a judicial review because we were advised that it would cost the council a significant amount of money, which in the present economic climate we felt would not be a good use of taxpayers’ money.
“However councillors did say that they did not want the magistrates court closed and that they would write to the government to protest. I know David Heath made the strongest possible representations to the government at the time of the consultation, as we all did. We are all extremely disappointed that the Justice Minister made a decision he has, particularly as the Lord Chief Justice said Frome shouldn’t be closed.”

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