LAW firms in Wiltshire are worried that people will have to spend more money to travel to court hearings, after the Ministry of Justice began sending some cases from Chippenham court to Salisbury and Swindon in order to wind the court down before its closure.

Solicitors fear some of their clients will find it increasingly difficult to travel to other courts because of high bus and train fares, and still feel the Chippenham courts should not be closed.

"Why are they closing a 20-year-old purpose-built court?" said Andrew Watts-Jones of Richard Griffiths & Co, who often acts as the duty solicitor at Chippenham.

"Chippenham is modern, it has a large number of well equipped cells, it has the facilities that a court requires, it has four court rooms that are light, airy and modern and it it fit for purpose.

"As of April 1 only magistrate court trials are being heard here and all other cases are being shifted across an arbitrary line that has been drawn across the county, which means many of the people who should be heard at Chippenham are having to spend more time and money getting to Salisbury and Swindon.

"I am generalising massively, but most people [courts deal with] come from the lowest economic strata and to to make them pay substantially more to travel further puts an added pressure on people who already have a lot of pressure on them."

The solicitor believes that many more warrants to appear, which means police arrest people who have failed to turn up in court and then take them to the second court hearing, and which cost the taxpayer hundreds of pounds to issue, will be ordered as a result of changes.

This week Robert Bourns, the president of the Law Society of England and Wales,  said he was limited as to what he could say due to the General Election, but encouraged the winning party to reconsider the Ministry of Justice plans which proposed the closure of 86 courts, including Chippenham, across England and Wales as part of a £700 million cost-cutting exercise.

He said: “Whoever wins the General Election should put equal access to justice for all at the heart of their plans for the country.

"A key aspect of this is the ability to use a local court without incurring unreasonable expense so that everyone can exercise their rights.”

The Ministry of Justice said a closure date for Chippenham Law Courts had not yet been decided.