Carmarthen Court's future in doubt after cases switched to Llanelli
WEEKLY court cases have now switched from Carmarthen to Llanelli — prompting fears that the town's magistrates' court is in danger of closing.
First-appearance hearings for the majority of crimes came to an end at Carmarthen courthouse in Guildhall Square at Christmas.
From now on, the busy Wednesday courts will be heard by magistrates in Llanelli instead.
They include people who appear for the first time on a wide range of charges, people who are being sentenced and where cases are sent to the crown court.
Carmarthen Court will continue to deal with motoring cases as well as youth court and trials.
Carmarthen solicitor Mike Reed said it was "a sad day for local justice".
He said: "Carmarthen is a busy court and it's important that justice is done locally.
"This will make it extremely difficult for people, particularly those on benefits, to get to Llanelli."
Carmarthen court was also extensively refurbished earlier this year.
Mr Reed added: "I cannot understand the reasons for it.
"A lot of money has been spent on Carmarthen Court in the last few months.
"As far as I can see, there's been no consultation with anyone, either with agencies or legal practitioners."
He pointed to the downgrading of Carmarthen Police Station, which no longer keeps offenders in cells.
"They are instead taken to the custody suite in Llanelli Police Station.
"My fear is that this is similar to the police station — where the cells have been effectively mothballed.
"This will be a fait accompli for the court," he said.
His concerns were echoed by the presiding magistrates at the last court session, who said it would be harder for everyone — magistrates, officials, witnesses and defendants — to have to travel to Llanelli.
The apparent downgrading of the building also casts doubt on its future, after a cull of courts in recent years, including Cardigan and Ammanford.
The court service said it had no intention of closing the court at this time.
A spokesman said: "Listing of magistrates' courts business is a judicial function that is kept under constant review by the justices' clerk, in conjunction with senior justices and in consultation with court users. The service continues to keep the use of its estate under review to ensure it meets operational requirements."