Backlash following the decision to move hearings to Luton

Bedford Magistrates' Court
Bedford Magistrates' Court

The decision to move cases heard at Bedford Magistrates’ Court to Luton has been branded “a poor day for Bedford”.

Following a consultation, the Justices Issues Group on Monday agreed proposals to move the majority of cases to Luton - despite heavy opposition.

The decision was made just days after the group met with MP for North East Beds Alistair Burt and MP for Bedford and Kempston Richard Fuller, along with the leading solicitors from Bedford.

Following the decision Mr Burt said: “I am very disappointed with the decision, which indicates that the group gave no serious consideration to the points made by Bedford Law Society last week.

“We thought new issues as to costings had been raised, and they were worth rather more than the less than 24 working hours they must have received. “

He added: “ A poor day for Bedford, as the march of Luton continues.”

Under the new changes Bedfordshire adult and youth crime, local authority civil (non-family), crime cases and probation cases will be listed at Luton Magistrates’ Court - although active consideration will be given to listing local authority work, which does not require a duty solicitor or probation support at Bedford.

Bedfordshire family work, including maintenance, will be listed at Luton County Court and Bedford Shire Hall under the single family court.

The move, which will come into force from June 1, was also criticised by Labour Councillor Colleen Atkins.

She said: “I am dismayed by this decision. Moving magistrate hearings from Bedford to Luton will have a detrimental impact on the borough’s residents and could lead to greater difficulties for local people to get justice.

“This is closure by the back door. It’s a disgrace.”

A spokesman from the HM Courts and Tribunals Service insisted the Bedford Court will not be closing, and the move would enable hearings in courthouses with suitable facilities and within a reasonable commuting distance to take place.