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Bury St Edmunds not London identified as the likely venue for London and South East divorce centre

Date:6 JAN 2015
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The Ministry of Justice has provided more information about centralisation for divorce processing in England and Wales, but only in response to a further Freedom of Information Request.

The FoI request was submitted by Tony Roe of Berkshire firm, Tony Roe Solicitors. Mr Roe says that it was made due to the lack of clarity in the MoJ's reply to his original request after he asked for a likely final list of all the courts that will remain able to process divorce petitions

The MoJ's reply reveals:

1. Agreed divorce centres

'The agreed divorce centres for England and Wales are as follows:
  • Midlands – Nottingham and Stoke
  • North East – Doncaster, Durham and Bradford. These centres are operational and currently Harrogate is operating as a fourth centre before work is transferred to Bradford in January 2015.
  • North West – Liverpool (phased implementation 14 December to 15 February)
  • Wales – Neath, Newport and Wrexham.'
2. Implementation

'Implementation dates differ because each region has decided the appropriate date based on factors such as such as availability of accommodation, movement of resources and consultation/communication with stakeholders.

Implementation of the South West divorce centre is planned for April 2015. This is because the region needed time to consider the potential accommodation options as well as the impact of other projects being undertaken in the region.' 
3. Likely venue for the London and South East Centre: Bury St Edmunds

'Bury St Edmunds has been identified as the likely venue for the London and South East Centre but consultation has not been completed. If the current proposal is accepted implementation will not commence until 2015 because the Bury St Edmunds building is being refurbished and is currently unoccupied. Building works are expected to be completed in March 2015.

Bury St Edmunds was proposed as the divorce centre for the South East and London following a thorough review of the HMCTS estate, London and South East workload and resource availability. The Bury building was the most cost effective option, is a sufficient size and provides the greatest scope to improve the service delivered to court users.'
4. Likely venue for theSouth West

'Southampton Combined Court is proposed as the divorce centre for the South West for the following reasons. The court has staff resources and office space available due to the movement of some other administrative work out of Southampton. Consequently the recruitment and set up costs for the new unit would be significantly reduced.The legal resource in Southampton is also sufficient in terms of Legal Advisers, which includes the pool available across Hampshire. In terms of judiciary, Southampton and the surrounding area has the highest proportion of District Judge allocation in the Region.'
Mr Roe said, 'It is astounding that London, supposed divorce capital of the world, is not to have a divorce centre of its own. Where there is an international element to a matter, one needs to be able to attend court and issue on an urgent basis. The MoJ has not set out how these emergency jurisdictional aspects might be dealt with. We need to see a much more detailed and considered approach, and one that does not simply focus on costs.'

The FoI request and reply can be read in full here.
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