Police and Crime Panel backs justice centre campaign
By Rob Freeman | 21st July 2020
Gloucestershire County Council's influential police and crime panel has backed Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl's campaign for a new justice centre.
And the panel agreed unanimously to write to Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk - a junior minister in the Department of Justice - asking for his support.
The move followed the latest meeting of the panel, which holds the PCC to account, which discusses Mr Surl's annual report - including a 14-page Court Provision in Gloucestershire report which features the offer of land at Waterwells in Quedgeley for the centre.
Mr Surl told the panel he had raised the county's failing courts with Justice Minister Robert Buckland and Secretary of State Chris Philp, but there had been little interest from the county's six MPs.
He said: "If we do nothing, mark my words we won't have a court system in Gloucestershire. It will all be in Bristol.
"I don't mind where the court goes; anywhere that is accessible is acceptable to me. I'm just trying to be helpful.
"Waterwells has great transport links and IT connectivity and as the government likes to say is shovel ready, if someone can come up with another location I will get behind it, but that would likely cost more money."
Gloucestershire has lost five courts since 2010 when Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) began a national reform programme.
Local justice is now administered by a magistrates' court in Cheltenham, a crown court in Gloucester and a combined civil and family court in the city - meaning Gloucestershire is one of only six counties in the UK to have just one magistrates' court.
"If this county does not get behind this, or take it off me we will get nothing," he said. "There is a billion pounds of funding out there, to modernise the court system.
"We can talk about it, we can argue about it or we can say our courts are rubbish, our waiting lists are rubbish and we can actually fight as one to get a new court.:
Mr Surl, who also chairs the Gloucestershire Criminal Justice Board, continued: "But I am sick to death of arguing. A bit disappointed the MPs don't reply to my letters - let's forgive them, they're very busy people, I'm sure it's an error - but we need to do this
"I will do my bit to offer the land at a reasonable price, not for profit, to keep it in the public domain so we don't have to buy it off the private sector.
"But I can't keep it much longer if we carry on like this."
Martin Surl takes Punchline on a video tour of Gloucestershire's new police training centre in your latest online magazine.
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