FEARS have been raised that Southend Crown Court could close within weeks.

Plans being considered by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals (HMCTS) could mean witnesses, victims, and defendants will be forced to travel further distances for court hearings.

The plans, believed to be to cut costs, will see the magistrates’ court remain at the building in Victoria Avenue to deal with less serious cases and first appearances.

But indictable-only offences will have to be dealt with at Basildon Crown Court including robberies, grievous bodily harm, serious sexual offences and frauds.

It is understood that some civil cases from Southend County Court, in Tylers Avenue, will be held in the empty rooms.

Glen Bartlett, of Jefferies Solicitors, who is the Criminal Law Representative on the Southend and District Local Law Society, said: “The view of the defence solicitors is that it will be a very sad day when the Southend Crown Courts are closed. It will be a substantial blow for natural justice.”

He said it would make it difficult for the unemployed to travel to court, meaning many defendants will not have the support of family and friends. Local jurors may also struggle with child care issues due to extra travel time.

Southend currently works as an “overspill” for Basildon Crown Court and regularly deals with cases they cannot fit into their day. This raises the possibility of some cases being sent as far afield as Chelmsford or delays could be caused in getting cases to court.

An Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals (HMCTS) spokeswoman denied any decision had been made yet.

She said: "HMCTS also continues to keep the use of its estate under review to ensure it meets operational requirements. However, there has been no decision to close Southend Crown Court, and any new proposal to close a court would be subject to a full public consultation."