‘Crumbling’ court buildings are worsening case backlog as repair works see more than 100 sitting days lost
The Law Society has called for “widespread investment” in the criminal justice system after it was revealed that more than 100 court sitting days were lost in the first six months of 2022 due to repair works in England and Wales’ “crumbling” Crown Court estate.
As of the end of June, 111 court sitting days had been lost due to ongoing repair works across the HMCTS estate, figures obtained through a freedom of information (FoI) request filed by the Law Society Gazette show.
The revelations come amid mounting criticism that many of England and Wales’ courts are in a state of disrepair, with reports of leaking rooves, rat infestations, and squalid working conditions.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We have been raising the alarm about the crumbling state of our court buildings for some time now and with so many courts in need of repair it is inevitable more sitting days will be lost.”
The lost days come as Hereford Crown Court has been closed for more than two years, after the building’s ceiling collapsed in June 2020. This month, HMCTS signed a lease on an empty museum building in Hereford, with a view to using the building as temporary courthouse.
Stephanie Boyce added that “it is extremely disturbing to see so many court sitting days lost because of the poor state of the buildings,” as she warned that “widespread investment” is needed to ensure the criminal justice system is fit for purpose “after decades of underfunding and cuts.”
A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesperson said: “We spent over £100 million on court maintenance and repairs last year and funded over 100,000 sitting days last year to keep justice moving.”
“This financial year, we have funded unlimited sitting days again and will spend a further £70 million on maintaining our estate to use our courtrooms at full capacity and bring down the backlog.”