Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017.
Last year, the local judiciary decided to move all criminal cases out of Bedford Magistrates’ Court to Luton. Since then, local MPs, Richard Fuller and Alistair Burt, have been campaigning to get trials returned to Bedford. They have met with the Courts Minister, members of the judiciary and local groups affected by the change.
On Monday, their fight went right to the top when they invited Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling to Shire Hall in Bedford to hear from local court users. The Lord Chancellor heard from local magistrates, lawyers, Police Federation members, the local council and local residents about the detrimental effect the change has had.
Commenting, Bedford MP Richard Fuller said, “It was a totally unfair, unbalanced and undemocratic decision.”
The Lord Chancellor thanked Richard and Alistair for giving him the opportunity to hear directly from local court users and he committed to go away and think about what he might be able to do in response.
On Tuesday 25th March, local MPs Richard Fuller and Alistair Burt held an Adjournment Debate in Parliament on Bedford Magistrates’ Court.
The debate was in response to an announcement in February by the ‘Justices Issues Group’ in Bedfordshire that all criminal and civil cases would be removed from Bedford Magistrates’ Court and heard in Luton instead.
During the debate, Bedford MP Richard Fuller expressed his concerns that the decision would effectively lead to the closure of Bedford Magistrates’ Court. He said,
“This is a crucial issue for local people. It affects access to justice, the ability of people to get to their magistrates court.”
“It is being presented as a reallocation of case loads, but it is not a reallocation of case loads. It is a closure of Bedford Magistrates’ Court by the back door, cleverly but unfairly bypassing the rights of the people.”
Alistair Burt added,
“This is a closure by other means, and an administrative dodge used to ensure that the decision avoids the Minister.”
The MPs called on the Minister to take a close look at the decision and to see whether he might be able to intervene.
The Minister agreed to come to Bedford to meet with the MPs and local people affected by the decision.