Mark Williams, Member of Parliament for Ceredigion and Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, has strongly criticised the Government for its consultation on the merger of Local Justice Areas in Wales.
The consultation has come about as a result of the closure of a number of magistrate’s courts in Wales, including those in Brecon, Carmarthen and Dolgellau, and the Government decision to combine the work of these with other courts.
Under the consultation options, the current Local Justice Area of ‘Ceredigion & Pembrokeshire’ could be replaced by 1) an area consisting of Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and West Glamorgan; 2) an area of Carmarthenshire, Brecknock and Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire; 3) One covering the entirety of ‘South Wales’, including Ceredigion, and another in ‘North Wales’; and 4) a single area for Wales.
Mark said “I am extremely concerned by the potential for further centralisation of justice in Wales. For many living in rural areas, access to justice can already been extremely difficult and time consuming.
“It seems that there has been a drive to centralise many Government services to save money. However, this not only hits at the core of access to justice, but completely disregards the needs and problems faced by those in rural areas. In parts of South East Wales it may be simple for someone to travel slightly further to receive justice, but for those in Ceredigion, it can be near impossible.
“We have already seen a number of Magistrates resign as a result of the previous merger of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire without being replaced, and there are real worries that a further merger could see even fewer Magistrates in Ceredigion, eroding local justice, and potentially the availability of bilingual justice as well.”