Magistrates’ Court site sell-off as hearings move from Yate to Bristol

February 28 2016

YATE’S court building is set to close later this year, with cases being transferred to Bristol.

Magistrates Court Yate

YATE’S court building is set to close later this year, with cases being transferred to Bristol.
The closure of North Avon Magistrates’ Court in Kennedy Way was announced after completion of a review into magistrates’ courts across the country.
It is understood the court house will shut between October and December, allowing the site to be sold off.
But concerns have been raised about the extra time it will take people involved in court proceedings, including witnesses and volunteer support staff as well as defendants, to get to hearings in Bristol.
Thornbury and Yate MP Luke Hall has also pressed for help to find new roles for those staff who will be affected by the change.
The Yate complex was chosen to close instead of Bath’s courts. HM Courts and Tribunals Service said although Bristol’s 12 modern magistrates’ courts currently only ran at 60 per cent of capacity, they would be unable to accommodate the workload of both Yate and Bath.
Yate’s court building dates from 1982, has five courtrooms, 13 staff and deals with adult and youth criminal cases from across South Gloucestershire.
There are also 12 custody cells and one courtroom has video link facilities for witnesses to give their evidence, although there is no prison video link.
It cost about £288,000 to run the building in 2014-15, during which time it only operated at 28 per cent of capacity, and a report into the review said running at that level did not justify keeping it open.
The report also claimed there were good public transport links between Yate and Bristol but it was criticised for underestimating the travel time involved in reaching the city, especially at rush hour.
In his submission, Mr Hall said people who had to use public transport, especially those living in rural areas with infrequent services, would be most affected as travel times would be longer and the cost higher.
But Sandra Aston, who is responsible for managing the courts service in the South West, said while acknowledging those problems for some people, access to justice was “not just about proximity to a court”.
She said: “In an increasingly digital age, users will not always need to attend hearings in person in order to access the justice system.”
She said better use could be made of technology, including video conferencing, to consider making use of civic buildings for certain types of hearing.