HUNDREDS of people in York and Selby have failed to attend court since the closure of Selby Magistrates' Court, but fewer than in previous years.

Information released by HM Courts and Tribunals Service under a Freedom Of Information request show 35.8 per cent of defendants due to appear before York and Selby Magistrates' Court in the nine months to December 2013 did not turn up.

Selby Magistrates' Court closed in March last year, after hearing cases in the town for more than 150 years, despite campaigns by the public and local councillors to keep it open.

The court had undergone a £750,000 refurbishment to make it fully accessible to wheelchair users and people with disabilities, but was closed along with more than 100 county and magistrates' courts around England and Wales under Government spending cuts.

The figures show that 3,506 out of 9,786 defendants due before York and Selby Magistrates' Court between March 2013 (the closure of Selby mags), and December 2013 failed to turn up - just under 36 per cent.

While Selby Magistrates Court was still open, the rate of non-attendance was worse, with 1,939 failures to attend between March 2012 and March 2013 (54 per cent of 3,571), and 1,450 failures to attend between March 2011 and February 2012 (44.89 per cent of 3,230).

A spokeswoman for HM Courts and Tribunals Service said the ratio of non-attendants since Selby's closure "compares favourably" with the previous rate, but figures also included several cases where defendants were not required to attend.

She said: "Wilful failure to attend court is a serious matter and can be a criminal offence. Crown Justice Service agencies have worked together closely in recent years to ensure defendants get to court and we expect that to continue.

"If a defendant has genuine difficulty getting to a magistrates' court in time for his case and informs the court, the court will seek to be flexible about the timing of that case wherever possible."