Cromer Magistrates Court set to close

Cromer is set to lose its magistrates court under a nationwide cull of 140 outdated courthouses.

Wisbech, Thetford and Swaffham were considered 'unsustainable' and will also shut along with Lowestoft County Court, with the workload transferred to Great Yarmouth, Norwich and King's Lynn.

Announcing the axing of 93 magistrates and 49 county courts, Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said: 'We are closing the worst courts in the estate so we can concentrate our limited resources on the best ones.

'It is unacceptable that dozens of buildings never intended to be, and not fit to be, modern court buildings are still in use.'

Courts taking the extra workload would get �22m worth of modernisation and improvements

Cromer town mayor Yvonne Nolan said: 'I am very disappointed with the news. I know the town council did put in a lot of objections to it closing because it will mean people having to travel such a long way. It is disappointing news, but I suppose money has to be saved somewhere.'

The closures also sparked fears for the future of locally-based justice, with Paul Allen, chairman of Norwich magistrates, saying the decision would make appearing in court a more daunting experience for victims and witnesses.

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He said: 'We have to be realistic and recognise that courts can't be exempt from funding cuts. But at the same time it is very disappointing.

'In a county like Norfolk, travel can be problematic. If you are talking about a witness who is already reluctant to give evidence, it could tip the balance.'

It would be 'harder for justice to be done and be seen to be done on a local level.'

The current Cromer courthouse on the Holt Road dates from 1938-39, and, with the former police station next door, was built in inter-war neo-Georgian style.

In 1993 the courthouse was revamped at a cost of �110,000, to provide 'two courts, an office, a waiting room with drinks dispenser and telephone and rooms for lawyers and witnesses'.

Before that the courthouse was in Church Street, opposite the junction with Mount Street in a block that also included a police station, and which later became a youth club.

The previous courts were held at the Red Lion Hotel, and anecdotes recall that the degree of severity of sentencing by the visiting judge was down to the amount of hospitality he enjoyed there after arriving on horseback the previous day.