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County Court - Campaign to Save Huntingdon County Court

7th October 2002

Jonathan Djanogly has launched a campaign to save Huntingdon County Court.

Jonathan Djanogly, Member of Parliament for Huntingdon, has launched a campaign to save Huntingdon County Court. The Court Service "Modernising the Civil and Family Courts" document reviews the service provided by County Courts, and the recommendation could lead to the closure of Huntingdon County Court as a primary hearing centre and have its status downgraded to a local (part-time) hearing venue.

Following a recent meeting with Court officials and some of the users of the Court, Mr Djanogly has written to the Lord Chancellor to ask him to consider various issues, which have been raised with him to support the retention of the Court with a full county service. These include;

  • Huntingdon, as the county town for Huntingdonshire, remains the central location for local public services. For instance, the headquarters of Cambridgshire Police is in Huntingdon and the area's Magistrate Court is in Huntingdon. This area has one of the highest levels of small business ownership in the United Kingdom, and yet to travel to alternative courts is not straightforward with Peterborough and Cambridge over 20 miles away and extremely slow roads (and infrequent and slow public transport) between Huntingdon and Cambridge. To put this into context, someone living in a village (of which there are about 70)would need to take a bus to Huntingdon in order to get to Peterborough (and for the most part, Cambridge). Buses are often infrequent.
  • The recent census shows Cambridgeshire to have the highest growing population in the country (25% over 20 years). Likewise, in Huntingdonshire employment has increased by 24% in the last 10 years and this increase is speeding up rather than slowing down. In addition, there are various major infrastructure projects being proposed (not least a Luton sized airport for Alconbury just outside Huntingdon), which all point to the need to expand the provision of local public services, such as court provision, rather than reducing it.
  • Huntingdon County Court is extremely highly valued locally and is seen as a friendly, efficient and accessible local service, which has served the local community since its foundation in 1882, and is needed now more than ever.
  • To remove the full county court service could have very serious consequences for the administration of justice in the Huntingdon area. The recent (and welcome) developments to encourage small claims to be dealt with by the small claims track service will be significantly adversely affected if local practitioners are unable to refer people to the accessible, friendly and local service that currently exists.
  • The poorest members of the local community are likely to be most badly affected by the proposals, not least due to the fact that they will simply not be able to afford to travel to Peterborough, Cambridge or Bedford, and that even where they are not initiating proceedings, they may not be able to attend Court hearings.
  • Local small businesses are very concerned at proposals involving their ready access to a county court being taken away. The longer trip to Peterborough, Cambridge or Bedford (which would effectively take up half a day) would significantly impinge on their businesses.
  • The proposals could have the impact of increasing legal costs to local people, not only in terms of extra expenses, but also in terms of the extra time taken up in travelling.
  • Local people and businesses may see the demotion of the town of Huntingdon as an indication that practitioners working in the local market towns are less competent to deal with their litigation. Urgent cases, such as ones requiring an injunction, will be impeded by the extra time taken to deal with the manner in a far away court.

Mr Djanogly said:

"Huntingdonshire needs and deserves its own County Court; with the massive increases in population and business that have taken in our area over the last ten years, we need more public services - not less, and that is why I am starting this campaign to save our County Court.

I strongly recommend that those who also feel strongly about this issue write to the Lord Chancellor, care of the House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW, to support the retention of our County Court."

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