MoJ admits £1.35m spent on upgrading condemned courts

Topics: Courts business,Alternative dispute resolution

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The government has spent £1.35m upgrading courts which have since been earmarked for closure, it has been revealed.

Justice minister Shailesh Vara said the investment in digital technology for court centres was halted as soon as the consultation process for shutting 91 courts began.

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The Ministry of Justice has opted to close 86 of the sites and has confirmed they had already been subject to the £1.35m investment.

In a written answer to parliament, Vara said: ‘The vast majority of this expenditure was in reusable hardware assets which will be reallocated to other sites within the HMCTS estate.

‘Additionally, the savings from the installations are expected to outweigh average installation costs by the time courts start to close.’

The government has secured around £700m from the Treasury to spend on upgrading technology and modernising the court estate. Some of the money will be allocated to video conferencing and online dispute resolution.

Speaking at a Westminster Hall debate on the closure of Lambeth County Court (pictured) yesterday, the minister assured MPs that upgrades should be in place to coincide with the court closures, meaning fewer people will have to physically be in court, although he could not give a precise date when the upgrades will be complete.

‘When you are putting in place a £700m-plus programme of court reform [opposition MPs have] to take it on trust we will do our damndest to make sure everything fits in and is timely and orderly because if [it does not] there will be one massively chaotic justice system.’

In a statement to the Gazette, Vara added: ‘The decision to close a court will never be taken lightly, but in the digital age I am confident we have measures in place to ensure access to justice is not diminished.’

Meanwhile, a Conservative police and crime commissioner has questioned the government’s suggestion that court closures will save money.

Anthony Stansfeld, PCC for Thames Valley, where courts in Aylesbury, Bicester and Newbury will all shut, said the decision will result in more failed cases as victims and witnesses face long journeys to attend hearings.

‘The decision to close these three courts may save the MoJ money in the short term, but it will cost the police money, do nothing for victims and witnesses, and is likely to result in yet more failed cases. It would seem to waste money rather than save it, at the expense of local criminal justice.’

The MoJ said the closure of courts will save the taxpayer £27m a year and raise £40m to reinvest in the justice system.

Readers' comments (7)

  • IDIOTS!

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  • Probably a drop in the ocean compared to wasred monies spent on 2tt

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  • So the savings from these upgrades in the run up to closures will exceed the cost, and most of the upgrades involve kit that can be moved to other locations? Doesn't seem like much waste going on actually.

    Nice soundbite from Anthony Stansfeld, if anyone knows about providing value for money in the CJS its the highly paid, game chaging, Police and Crime Commissioners.

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  • The public sector and Premier League football clubs are the only two parts of society where you can be shockingly wasteful of money and nobody really faces accountability. If these numpties were in the private sector they'd be out of business tomorrow. That's why they stick to the safe arms of working for the public sector - because there's no accountabiltiy for things like this. Taxpayers money is treated with contempt and arrogance.

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  • Errrm... Anon at 4.47pm....£7Million wasted, no it wasn't Wayne Rooney's hourly rate...it was the sum (estimated) on that new signing 'Veyo' from the Dream Team....I have yet to hear of any resignations, let alone heads rolling, or am I becoming confused with those new wave of money laundering criminals..the Banks.

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  • Are these the same people who did the same with police stations? Monet spent on upgrading them or building new ones, just to abandon them is a source of jokes even among the police themselves.
    Will someone rip these people out of their offices and give them a game of monopoly to play instead of playing with our hard earned money?

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  • Quite, Deborah, just six months or so ago I had to go to make a statement in Llandudno police station. I was taken to a soundproof interview room with all the modern recording devices. Today not one brick has been left standing on another.

    BTW They knew who had committed the offence, burglary. But CPS dropped the case despite his prints being on a drinks can left inside my late mother's house. I felt sorry for the DS who spent many hours on the job and was successful in recovering my bike. All that for nothing. And now I have no excuse for not riding my bike!

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