Justice for courts Where is funding for new premises?
We cannot allow our county to slip off the judicial map Martin Surl
AS Del Boy might say, there was an element of “déjà vu again” when the Chancellor proclaimed the end of austerity.
Almost, but not quite, because missing from the announcement of more funding for the police, Crown Prosecution Service and prisons was any mention of the inadequate court provision – an issue which is particularly relevant to Gloucestershire and one I have written about before.
The court community in Gloucestershire has long been aware of the substandard nature of the county’s courts with regards to facilities and the negative impact this has on local justice.
Yet after numerous frustrated attempts to secure new court premises or improvements to existing buildings, Gloucestershire is now one of just six counties with only one magistrates’ court and one of two counties with the lowest number of courts per population.
The consequence is an urgent need for a new justice centre for the county.
As chairman of the Gloucestershire Criminal Justice Board, I have been working with partners to explore options for a new purposebuilt justice centre fit for the 21st century.
I will be publishing the result of research carried out by my office on the subject soon.
Courts are a physical manifestation of the law and should be a focus for civic pride. In holding offenders to account, courts should also be a source of reassurance for victims, somewhere they go to gain satisfaction for a wrong done to them. That is why it is equally important that those sitting in judgement have experience and knowledge of the locality, a point forcibly made by former District Judge Jamie Tabor. As Police and Crime Commissioner, I can offer a location on which to build, which is already in public ownership and available.
While it would address all of the issues highlighted in my report, I have also made it clear that if a better site became available in, for instance, the centre of Gloucester, that would also have my support. I do not believe this should be a deterrent to what we are trying to achieve.
We cannot allow our county to slip off the judicial map and I will be seeking the support of the county’s MPS and other leaders to work towards the renewal of the court estate for now and for future generations.