ALMOST 54 years after it first opened its doors, the last sentence was handed out by Fenland magistrates on Wednesday.
It was a sad day at Wisbech Magistrates’ Court as, despite a lengthy battle to keep it, the court closed.
Before the day’s business began, local dignitaries attended the formal closing of the court. Chairman of the bench Margaret Angood addressed the gathered staff and guests, including Lord Lieutenant Hugh Duberly, High Sheriff in nomination Richard Barnwell, Judge Jonathan Howarth, current and former magistrates and town mayors, who packed the jury box.
Mrs Angood spoke of the battle by Fenland magistrates to keep the court open, following the announcement of plans by Her Majesty’s Court Service to close it, and of the strong representations they made.
Fenland cases will now be split between Peterborough, King’s Lynn and Huntingdon, with some magistrates deciding to work in those courts as well.
“It feels to me as if we are gathered to mark the passing of a much-loved friend who has met an untimely end,” Mrs Angood said.
She paid tribute to the many people “who brought the building to life” over the years, including the magistrates, court clerks, ushers and security staff.
Scheherazade Haque, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Wisbech would always be special for her, as it was the first court she prosecuted in.
“It’s a sad day,” Ms Haque said, “but everyone who has practised here will look back with fond memories.”
John Clarke spoke on behalf of the defence solicitors and said the only use for the building now would be a nightclub.
He said: “Older buildings used to go on for a long time, but unfortunately, now money rules.
“It’s important that things change and go on and no matter how sad we are, the court is going to close.”
Magistrate Jane Malloy said: “I wish you all the best in your endeavours to bring justice to the people of Fenland, wherever that may be.”