Crown court lies idle for months
EXCLUSIVEBy Patrick LowmanA CROWN court complex will be used for just 30 days over an 18-month period in what a peer condemned last night as an "irrational misuse of public resources".
By Patrick Lowman
A CROWN court complex will be used for just 30 days over an 18-month period in what a peer condemned last night as an "irrational misuse of public resources".
The East Anglian Daily Times has learned Bury St Edmunds Crown Court has not been used for cases since a new multi-million-pound state-of-the-art court complex opened in Ipswich in June.
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Although court officials insisted the Bury St Edmunds court was still considered a key public facility and stressed there were no plans for its closure, it will not be used again until February 2005.
In fact, Bury St Edmunds Crown Court will only be used for a total of six weeks throughout next year, meaning it will stand idle for 46 weeks next year – and will have only been used for 30 days during the 18 months from June 2004 to the end of December 2005.
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Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury, who is a staunch campaigner against the destruction of local justice, condemned the situation.
"Surely the situation of Bury Crown Court has to be a serious misjudgment or part of a wider campaign of closure. To use a court for just six weeks in 18 months is an irrational misuse of public resources," he said.
"The most important thing is local justice. If that means sharing this building with other organisations for other purposes, that is fine, but a public building should be not be left sitting empty when it is perfectly useable. We have to get away from the thinking that all buildings should be single-purpose."
Lord Phillips said the situation at Bury St Edmunds Crown Court was symptomatic of the wider issue of the running down of local justice.
"When I was young there where four courts alone in Sudbury and magistrates' courts in places like Long Melford and Hadleigh and they have now gone," he added.
"Courts in Haverhill and Newmarket have also been closed. Without local justice, you lose the social effect of justice and the sense that local people are being judged by their peers.
"If criminals are not dealt with locally, they do not have to face the community or the effects their crimes have had on that community. It is very clear the loss of local justice is damaging the communities we live in."
Ross Taylor, manager of the new Ipswich Crown Court complex, confirmed Bury St Edmunds Crown Court had not been used since June.
"Bury hasn't been used since we opened here because we have been able to deal with the workload. We certainly don't want to lose Bury and we will be using it for six weeks in 2005," he said.
"It is fair to say that some people are now having to travel further to come to this court, but you have to balance that against the far better facilities on offer to victims, witnesses, solicitors and members of the public that are just not available elsewhere."
Officials said Bury St Edmunds Crown Court will be used for cases for two weeks in February, June and October next year.