For many, Richmond Magistrates’ Court in Parkshot was just a building to walk past on the way to the green or the station.
To others, it was perhaps a stark reminder of where you can end up when the weekend drinking session gets a little too rowdy.
But to Tony Arbour, a long-serving magistrate alongside his political work at Richmond Council and the Greater London Authority, it holds fond memories as his place of work.
But blink and you will have missed it – the old courthouse closed its doors for the last time last Friday (March 18) some years after ceasing to hear criminal cases.
The distinct white building, which opened in 1975 as a replacement for the original court in Paradise Road, has been used only for immigration cases in recent years.
And it’s inevitable closure was finally confirmed when the Ministry of Justice announced plans to axe “underused and dilapidated” court buildings to save the taxpayer in the region of £40m.
Mr Arbour told the Richmond and Twickenham Times he was saddened by the news but reflected on his time at the court.
He said: “It opened in 1975 and I’ve been there from the day it opened right up until its closure [last week].
“Back then, it was the local court and it only served Richmond borough – it was full, this was in the days before the Crown Prosecution Service when police decided which cases to prosecute.
“An officer might see a shop lifter in the town or a man peeing in the street and the case would go up immediately.
“Over the years, the courts have amalgamated in south-west London, with cases being dealt with at Lavender Hill and Wimbledon.
“You also get a lot of people being punished by being given tickets now so the courts just haven’t been needed.”
He added that the closure of Richmond Magistrates’ Court represents a loss of identity for the borough.
He said: “There has not been much fuss about this – 10 or 15 years ago, the people of Richmond would have been up in arms protesting against the loss of local justice.
“It is very sad because once again it means that Richmond hasn’t got a single identity for itself and it being seen as part of a wider area.
“You no longer have local courts dealing with local issues – in the old days, you would have lawyers from Richmond Green prosecuting.”
But the MoJ said keeping the court open would have been “unsustainable” – adding that the decision had not been taken lightly.
Justice Minister Shailesh Vara said:“Our courts and tribunal system is in need of urgent reform.
"Maintaining our underused and dilapidated court buildings costs the taxpayer £500 million a year but some courts sit for less than half the time available.
“This is simply unsustainable.
“Closing these courts in poor quality buildings will raise £40 million to re-invest in the justice system, and save hard-working taxpayers £27 million per year.
“The decision to close a court is never taken lightly but in the digital age I am confident we have measures in place to ensure access to justice is not diminished.”
- What are your memories of Richmond Magistrates’ Court? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.