Courts won’t close ...for now

Wigan and Leigh Magistrates' Court
Wigan and Leigh Magistrates' Court
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THE corridors of Wigan Magistrates’ Court may have been abuzz with rumours about local cases being switched to Bolton recently.

But Ministry of Justice chiefs insist there is no truth in the rumour... for now.

A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service admitted that the use of its estate was “under review”.

But he denied that any immediate changes to operations at Wigan Magistrates’ Court were on the table.

He said: “HM Courts and Tribunals Service continues to keep the use of its estate under review to ensure it meets operational requirements.

“Any new proposals on the future of courts beyond those already announced would be subject to consultation.”

If local court cases were to be switched from Wigan to Bolton, defendants, witnesses and families would be forced to take a 30-mile round trip just to appear in court.

No consultations are currently in place in Wigan.

The court buildings in Darlington Street only opened in the early 1990s, the former town hall premises which had been used for hearings on nearby Rodney Street having been declared structurally unsound.

The courts, which were opened with much pomp and ceremony by the Princess of Wales, were so placed to adjoin the then police headquarters on Harrogate Street.

Indeed, when they were first built, a very costly overhead tunnel was constructed, linking the two buildings so that prisoners could be brought straight from the cells to the dock without the need to go outside. But when the police HQ closed (it was recently converted into a hotel), the tunnel was demolished.

Meanwhile, county court business had also been transferred to Darlington Street from the old courts on Crawford Street which are now forming part of a new college.

Inquests were also held at the courts for a time until it was decided that Wigan inquests should in future be held at the area coroner’s base in Bolton.

Bolton Magistrates’ Court is sometimes used as an overspill from the coroner’s court and it also has the advantage over Wigan of being a considerably larger building.

But any discussions over such rationalisation would also have to factor in the inconveniences to police, lawyers, victims and witnesses’ having to take much more time out of their working days to attend hearings miles away.