County Court’s in session for last time

The last-ever cases at Keighley’s historic County Court are due to be held today.

The building on North Street will close after 181 years administering justice in civil cases.

Keighley people will in future have to travel to the county courts in Skipton or Bradford for civil or family matters.

The court is being closed as part of Government cost-cutting measures that have seen the end of about 140 court buildings across the UK.

Keighley Magistrates’ Court – another victim of the cull – closed last December, with criminal cases moving to Bradford.

An official ceremony will be held this morning to mark the closure, with speeches by the judiciary.

District Judge Gordon Lingard – who hears the majority of cases in Keighley – will speak about the court’s history.

The Government announced in autumn 2010 that it had decided to close both Keighley County Court and Keighley Magistrates’ Court.

They were among 157 courthouses across the UK that had been earmarked for closure in order to save £41.5 million in running costs.

Only 15 of the courts, including Skipton’s magistrates and county courts, were saved when the final decision was made.

Eighty per cent of Keighley County Court’s cases will be heard in Skipton, while the rest – mostly concerning people in areas like Bingley and Cullingworth – will go to Bradford.

The majority of Keighley’s ten court staff will move to the enlarged Skipton facility, with one going to Bradford and one to Halifax.

District Judge Lingard yesterday told the Keighley News that the North Street building opened in 1831 as a Court of Requests.

It became a county court in 1847, a year after the Government established such courts, and in 1991 Keighley gained its own district judge.

District Judge Lingard has been associated with the Keighley court for 18 years, starting in the town as a deputy registrar and working across the area.

When the closure of the Keighley courts was first proposed, the town’s MP, Kris Hopkins, intervened on behalf of concerned local solicitors.

He said yesterday: “When the Coalition Government came to power it was faced with addressing a £170 billion deficit in the public finances.

“Despite the best efforts of many of us, including my own meeting with the Justice Minister in London, two courts here were on a long list across the country chosen for closure.

“However, I am assured that local people in Keighley will be provided with a high-quality service under the new arrangements for many years to come.”

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