A handful of erring drivers quietly steered Ilkeston Magistrates’ Court into history on Thursday 31st March
“It’s not the crime of the century,” said delivery man Mark Jeffery, 38, who travelled from Loughborough to be fined £60 for driving without wearing a seatbelt.
He was among ten people who turned up for a series of offences, ranging from driving without insurance to having the wrong licence. Dozens of others pleaded guilty by letter.
When one tried to pay his fine immediately, presiding magistrate Keith Taylor told him: ”I am afraid the court is closing for good today, so you’ll have to pay in Derby.”
The unit is one of 93 being shut by the coalition government as part of cutbacks.
It opened in 1976 with two criminal courtrooms – one for family cases and one which operated as a juvenile court. Before that, magistrates sat at town halls in Ilkeston, Heanor and Ripley. They also occasionally used church halls in Belper and Ilkeston.
A juvenile court was briefly held at the former Red Cross area HQ on Stanley Street, Ilkeston.
The court building has cells beneath it and offenders could be sent directly to jail.
But these were taken out of use after new prison vans could not fit into the loading bay.
In one of the wood-panelled main courtrooms, the hearing also marked the retirement of Michael Parker from the Crown Prosecution Service, who spent many years working in the court.
He initially dealt with adult criminal cases and later worked extensively in the youth court.
Mr Parker, 67, said: “It has been a fabulous court to appear in, a privilege and a pleasure to appear here in front of very knowledgeable local magistrates.
“It is a very fine building and an interesting bit of social study.
“If you give people something which looks very good, they will take care of it and that is remarkable.
“There has been no vandalism and there have been some fairly rough customers here.
“As a magistrate said, this could almost be the opening of a new facility rather than the closing of an excellent one.”
The building stands on Pimlico and is likely to be offered for sale. It cost £550,000 to build and equip.
The juvenile and family courts had fitted carpets, which also go up the wall behind the magistrates’ bench.
Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said in December: “Our court estate has simply not kept pace with the changing nature of our society or with the demands modern society places on our justice system.
“An estate of over 500 court buildings is not now necessary or sustainable, nor is it a reasonable expense for the taxpayer.
“We are closing the worst courts in the estate so we can concentrate our limited resources on the best ones.”