This week brings with it the closure of the Torquay Magistrates’ Court. This comes after the building has served the people for close to 60 years. The closure of the court is part of efforts to reorganise the local services in the area. Many people, including Kevin Foster, the Torbay MP campaigned against the closure but their efforts proved unsuccessful. On August 30th, the last hearings will be heard at the court building which is located on Union Street. Any pending court cases which have been heard will be moved to the Newton Abbot courthouse which has been recently refurbished.
The Torquay court house stands on the former foundations of a church school. It was built in 1960 after the merger of the small benches in Brixham and Paignton. These two had served as Police Courts and sat at the respective police stations. In the original building, there were four different courtrooms. However, starting from the 80s, the attached building was also being used as courtrooms. A nuclear bunker was built under the Courthouse in the 80s by the Civil Defence. Until only recently, this was being used as a storage area. There were plans in 1994 to put up another magistrates’ court near to the Torquay and Newton Abbot County Court but this never came to pass.
The South Devon Bench was created when the Torbay Bench was merged with those of South Hams and Teignbridge in 2000 and in 2012 it was merged with the Plymouth Bench, forming what is now the South and West Devon Bench. This isn’t the first magistrates’ court to be closed in recent times. Courthouses in Tavistock, Teignmouth, Totnes, Kingsbridge and Okehampton have also been closed. The lease of the Torquay Courthouse is expected to be taken over next month by the Homes and Communities Agency.