Magistrate of more than two decades in fight for justice in Neath Port Talbot
A MAGISTRATE of 24 years has said he wants justice to continue in Neath Port Talbot.
Taibach councillor John Rogers was speaking out during a consultation into the future of the magistrates’ court in Neath.
Last month, HM Courts and Tribunals announced proposals to close Neath Magistrates’ Court and merge the county’s benches with Swansea.
But since the announcement, politicians and bench members from across the county have spoken out against the proposals.
Mr Rogers said: "Local Justice is very important in our community of Neath Port Talbot with a population of 138,000 — not an insignificant size of community — and one that deserves a Magistrates’ Court."
He said if the proposal was to go ahead, it would result in job losses in the court house — with a potential impact on local solicitor offices.
"They may have to close or relocate, due to the rise in travelling costs to Swansea.
"The people who use the court, will also have to travel further to court and lose Local Justice."
Mr Rogers added that the only reason there had been a fall in work at the court — which HMCTS cited as one of the reasons for the proposal — was because motoring cases had been moved, adding: "This, like the closure of Port Talbot Magistrates’ Court, is closure by stealth.
"Port Talbot Magistrates’ Court which is now in the ownership of Neath Port Talbot Council, can be reopened at minimal cost to provide Local Justice for Neath Port Talbot residents."
Mr Rogers also questioned the timing of the proposal, which came days after Neath Port Talbot Council submitted a planning application for town centre redevelopment — including the demolition of the current court building.
"HMCTS withdrew their application for a new Court House in Neath late last year," he added.
"Why now? Is it just to put the blame on the Council?
"I call on all the people of Neath Port Talbot to join in to save Local Justice for our community of Neath Port Talbot.
"I have served as a magistrate for 24 years and I want to continue in Neath Port Talbot."
Aberavon AM David Rees and MP Hywel Francis have also urged for justice to be preserved, saying: "We are having discussions with magistrates across Swansea Bay to safeguard local justice.
"The recommendation to close the Neath Magistrates Court and to transfer all cases to Swansea is one that needs serious consideration and fuller and longer public consultation.
"We also believe that Swansea Magistrates Court would not be capable of handling the case load of the Swansea Bay Region."