The MP for Torridge and West Devon said he found the proposals to merge services with Exeter ‘deeply concerning’.

ANOTHER MP has joined the fight against proposals to merge North Devon Magistrates’ Court with Exeter resulting in court times slashed by nearly half.

Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, said he found the proposals ‘deeply concerning.’

After meeting with Bideford solicitor Debbie Bakehouse, Mr Cox agreed the outlined cuts would result in the loss of justice being served in the local community.

He said: “Immediately on meeting Ms Bakehouse at the end of July I wrote to HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to outline how troubled I was by the news that perhaps barely half a day per week would be available for trials in North Devon.

“Clearly this will be a severe blow to the area, resulting in a loss of local justice which will place a greater burden not only on the legal professionals, but victims, witnesses, complainants and our police force who would be required to travel far greater distances.

“Court hearings will in turn be much more frequently disrupted by a failure to attend.”

Ms Bakehouse, of Bazeley, Barnes and Bazely, said: “I would like to thank Mr Cox QC, MP and his staff for their support over the past few weeks.

“The current proposals are of deep concern to many people and agencies as the court is the only one remaining in the North Devon area serving a very wide rural community.

“To reduce any part of the court service in Barnstaple would mean users would have to travel long distances to Exeter, the cost of which could be both financially and emotionally difficult for many, and even prove to be a barrier to their ability to attend.”

A HMCTS spokesman said: “HMCTS, in conjunction with the judiciary, routinely reviews local listing arrangements, taking into account changes in workload, in order to make the best use of resources and facilities for users and taxpayers alike.

“Barnstaple Magistrates’ Court no longer has sufficient work to justify sitting every day of the week but there are no current plans to close the court.”

Anyone wishing to oppose the merger can do so by signing the e-petition ‘Local people – local justice – save our court’ at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/36609.