Chalk pledges £220m to modernise court buildings
By Bianca Castro >>
(11 August 2023)
Justice secretary Alex Chalk has today announced that £220m will be invested in the court estate over the next two years to help tackle the backlog. He also revealed that the lifting of the cap on judicial sitting days in the Crown court will be extended for the third year running.
The lord chancellor this week visited Bristol Crown Court, which has received around £8m for building maintenance and upgrades over the past four years, for the announcement.
The £220m, available until March 2025, will help bring buildings up to modern standards and improve accessibility, Chalk told the Gazette. The investments ‘reflect the respect that I and the government hold the justice system in’.
Chalk said: ‘The critical point about the two-year funding supplement is that it means you can use that very significant slug of money and you can plan it far more effectively so, instead of simply going from year to year, you can plan long term projects.
‘When you are talking about court ventilation systems or replacing the lifts or the perennial problem of how you ensure the heating system operates correctly, which I know as a barrister is always a problem, this allows the resources to solve these difficult engineering issues in a planned and efficient way and that is good for taxpayers as well as the justice system.
‘This is about ensuring that there is improved access for people of all abilities and disabilities. A modern estate isn’t just one that is maintained to the correct standard but also delivers modern standards of access. We are very keen to discharge our obligations because a fair and decent justice system is one that is open to all.’
He added: ‘Courts make court orders whether it is injunctions, bail warrants, and we need to ensure courts have the dignity and respect required to engender compliance with those sorts of court orders. The fabric of these buildings in a small way contributes to the dignity of the law and that is an important thing not to lose sight of.’
The Crown court worked for more than 100,000 sitting days across the country last year, an increase on the 98,500 days sat in 2021/22 after the cap was first lifted.
The Law Society described the measures as ‘a small step in the right direction to tackle the backlogs’.
‘However much more needs to be done,’ Society president Lubna Shuja said. ‘The latest figures show that the backlogs of outstanding cases in the magistrates’ court and Crown court continue to get worse. Victims and defendants are facing unacceptable delays with years spent in limbo as they wait for justice.’
(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)