NEWS that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is carrying out a consultation exercise on closing the magistrates court in Northallerton will be another blow to a community already fearful about the future of health services.

The MoJ’s consultation document trots out all the usual information about modernisation and the need for better quality facilities.

More tellingly however, it makes clear that the closure of the court would mean a £140,000 a year saving in operating costs, and the money-spinning sale of a prime site right on the edge of Northallerton town centre.

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The document bases some of its conclusions on a comparison of travel times to Northallerton, and the four courts which would handle its cases in future – York, Harrogate, Skipton and Teesside. It states that for some people, travel times will be reduced. But when it puts the car journey time from Richmond to Northallerton at one hour 48 minutes, and the public transport journey time at two hours 52 minutes, there is no wonder that it looks an acceptable option to send cases elsewhere.

These times must be an error – even a quick internet search reveals the number 55 Dales and District bus service takes 45 minutes to get between the towns. And it would only be a near two-hour drive if you took in Durham on the way.

Putting out flawed information such as this is not good enough when a decision is being proposed which will reduce access to justice for a large swathe of a county already contending with an ageing population, reduced public transport options and slow broadband speeds.