MAGISTRATES have called on the Ministry of Justice to monitor the impact on attendance at court after the closure of the only remaining magistrates court in the northern part of North Yorkshire.

A major campaign to save Northallerton Magistrates Court failed last year when the Ministry of Justice announced it would go ahead with the closure once a video link had been established in the town.

The closure on Friday May 31 came as a surprise to many, but the Ministry said a video link had been installed which would ensure access to justice is maintained. Cases are now being transferred to courts at York and Harrogate, the only remaining magistrates courts in North Yorkshire. It was revealed this week that the court house building is being bought by North Yorkshire County Council as part of a major shake up of offices at it's Northallerton headquarters.

John Bache, National Chair of the Magistrates Association, said half of all magistrates courts across the country have now closed since 2010.

He added: "Resources must be used effectively and if courthouses are underused or outdated then we should always consider whether they are still required. However justice should, wherever possible, be administered locally and, with half of all magistrates' courts closed many are already worryingly remote from the communities they serve. Video technology has a role to play but it is important courts remain genuinely accessible to victims, witnesses and defendants, enabling them to attend in person.

"The Magistrates Association was concerned about the decision to close Northallerton Magistrates' Court, given the strong opposition to its closure locally and the recognition from HM Courts and Tribunals Service that its closure will lead to some court users experiencing long journey times, particularly by public transport. Now that it has closed, HM Courts and Tribunals Service should closely monitor the impact on attendance at court and ensure that all victims, witnesses and defendants are supported to attend court in person."

A spokesperson for the courts and tribunals service confirmed the court had closed on May 31 and said people affected would have access to alternative courts with money raised from the sale of the buildings reinvested into the justice system.

They added:"The closure of any court is not taken lightly and, where a service is moved outside the local area, this will only happen following a full public consultation. Providing a video-link facility in the centre of Northallerton will ensure access to justice is maintained once the court has closed."