Hammersmith & Fulham residents face being denied justice under central government plans to shut Hammersmith County Court. The controversial closure plan is a further blow to law and order in H&F, coming only weeks after proposals were announced to axe most services at Fulham Police Station.
If the plans go ahead, residents who need the court to resolve vital civil matters, such as housing matters and financial claims, will be forced to leave the borough to seek justice. The witnesses they depend on to prove their cases will be forced to travel as well.
“The plans as presented are unacceptable, and represent the latest of this government’s many attacks on access to justice for our residents,” said Cllr Michael Cartwright, H&F Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour.
“Any residents seeking justice will be adversely affected, and there is a very real danger of those who find it difficult to travel, including elderly and disabled residents, being denied justice all together. Yet again, the one-off savings made as the government sells off assets take no account of the ongoing impacts on residents across the borough.”
Opposition to the closure of Hammersmith County Court has also been voiced by the Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales.
"Combined with the further planned increases in court fees and reductions in eligibility for legal aid, this closure will serve to deepen the inequalities in the justice system between those who can and cannot afford to pay,” Law Society president Jonathan Smithers added.
The news piles more misery on residents after the Mayor of London announced he would shut Fulham Police station – leaving just a ‘front counter’ – and slash the number police community support officers in our neighbourhoods.
24 PCSOs are currently deployed to the borough, one based in each of its 16 wards, plus eight working across H&F. The Met is considering a number of options for future PCSO numbers, including one scenario that would see all PCSOs removed from the borough.
“Police officers are already stretched due to huge cuts from central Government, with the Met now forced to axe PCSOs as well. It's a toxic combination. Residents are understandably concerned, and as a council, we are doing all we can to maintain neighbourhood policing. It is this commitment that has seen the council directly fund 44 police officers to patrol H&F,” Cllr Cartwright added.
The current number of council-funded police officers on the beat in Hammersmith & Fulham is at its highest ever – thanks to increased funding from the council.