Start of a new era for county's justice

By Jane HuntA NEW era in the history of Suffolk's legal system began when the new Ipswich Crown Court opened its doors for the first time.The spacious state-of-the-art building in the Ipswich Village development cost £14million and replaces the cramped conditions of the old Crown Court building in Civic Drive, which closed last month.

By Jane Hunt

A NEW era in the history of Suffolk's legal system began when the new Ipswich Crown Court opened its doors for the first time.

The spacious state-of-the-art building in the Ipswich Village development cost £14million and replaces the cramped conditions of the old Crown Court building in Civic Drive, which closed last month.

Thirteen hearings and trials were listed in four of the building's five courts for the first day of business yesterday and although they all eventually got off the ground, there were some teething problems along the way.

One case was delayed because a vital report was late reaching the court because of problems with a fax machine, while in another case a barrister discovered the microphone he was using was not connected to a machine taping the court proceedings.

In another court a judge voiced concern at not being able to see all 12 members of the jury panel from where was sitting and arrangements had to be made over the lunch adjournment for that to be remedied.

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Court manager, Ross Taylor, admitted there had been some teething problems, but stressed there was nothing that could not be overcome.

“We are using a new building, a new computer and telephone systems and there have been some minor problems that we are sorting out,” he said.

Mr Taylor added there had been some complaints about the high temperature in the large glass-fronted public waiting area and adjustments would have to be made to the air cooling system - but overall he thought everyone was pleased with the new surroundings.

As a regular visitor to the old courts for more than 20 years, the move to the new building was tinged with sadness for me.

The close proximity of the old building's three courts to rooms used by court staff, the probation service, security staff and the police resulted in a friendly environment appreciated by practically everyone - apart from the defendants facing trial!

While the spacious new court will provide better facilities for witnesses, barristers and court users in general, it will inevitably lack the personal touch of the old building.

One of the saddest consequences of the move - apart from its distance to the shopping centre - was saying goodbyes to the wonderful volunteers who manned the refreshment counter at the old courts.

These ladies had for many years given up their time to serve tea and coffee to court users on behalf of the WRVS and latterly St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich and will be missed by everyone.

The new court has its own canteen, which has a bonus of providing refreshments, including warm food for most of the day.

However, this new service comes at a price with a cup of coffee costing £1.35 compared to just 40p at the old building.

Arriving at the new court yesterday, I was reminded of my first day at senior school with everything seeming a lot larger and more intimidating than I was used to.

The grandly-titled Press Assembly Room is a great bonus for court reporters who in the past have had to sit and write their stories in the public waiting area.

All in all, the new court building will provide a better and more efficient working environment for everyone connected with the court.

However, on a personal note, I would just like to know why the only public toilets in the building are located on the ground floor, while all the courtrooms are on the top floor of the three-storey building!

jane.hunt@eadt.co.uk

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