A disabled barrister could not attend a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ) this afternoon because a lift in the building was out of order. A solicitor on the same case, who is paralysed down one side and uses a wheelchair, was forced to climb stairs supported by a helper and a walking stick.
The case, which regarded a libel claim brought against Jeremy Corbyn by blogger Richard Millett, was heard in the RCJ’s Bear Garden, which is up two flights of stairs. Before proceedings began, Master Thornett was told that one member of counsel could not access the room as a lift was not working.
Meanwhile, Millett’s solicitor advocate, who cannot use one side of his body, said he was forced to climb the stairs.
Master Thornett asked both sides whether they would like to postpone proceedings but the hearing went ahead as planned. According to one solicitor, it was the barrister’s first time back in the Royal Courts of Justice after losing his mobility last August.
In May, the government revealed that more than half of London’s courts had been inaccessible to those with disabilities in the past month. Those affected included 26 defendants, seven witnesses and seven members of the public.
During an evidence session at the House of Lords constitution committee, crossbench peer Lord Pannick QC said many courts in England and Wales were in a ‘dilapidated’ condition. ‘They are an embarrassment and they detract from the ability of our court staff, including the judges, to provide a public service,’ he said.