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Court closed for up to nine months after RAAC discovery

By John Hyde >>

(1 September 2023)

A London court could remain closed for nine months as work continues to make the building safe. In an update yesterday, HM Courts & Tribunals service revealed that Harrow Crown Court remains closed while reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) is removed and replaced. This will take anything from six to nine months.

The news about Harrow broke last week but the issue of RAAC in public buildings has been thrust into the spotlight with the government’s announcement yesterday that more than 100 schools would have to close due to the issue.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service said last week that an ongoing review of the estate had only found 2% of buildings with the same material. But the schools review is likely to increase concerns that RAAC could be discovered elsewhere and affected more court sites.

In their update, Lisa Killham, London crime delivery director, and Joanne Towens, London head of crime performance and improvements, explained that since the Harrow closure, cases are being listed at other sites across London and the south east.

They said: ‘We’re working at speed to implement a plan that will allow for further stability of re-listing cases from Harrow Crown Court by identifying a number of alternative courts. With the support of the Wood Green resident judge, we have secured two courtrooms and space for the administration team within the Crown Court sitting at Hendon Magistrates Court. The resident judge for Aylesbury has also agreed to provide a further courtroom at Amersham.’

Further locations are being looked at, as well as the option of hearing more cases remotely.

A week ago, HMCTS said checks had been carried out on all sites built between the 1960s and 1980s when RAAC may have been used. This sweep was being extended to the 1990s following the discovery of this concrete at Harrow.

The courts service said all courts checked had been deemed as safe following extensive surveys and tests in line with statutory building regulations.

A spokesperson added: ‘We are fully compliant with all statutory safety checks and measures. A wide range of mandatory inspections, tests and surveys are completed in line with statutory laws, legislation, approved codes of practice (ACOPs) and industry best practice for all assets and building fabric in HMCTS. This is not limited to RAAC but all aspects of our sites, buildings and grounds.’

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)