As temperatures unsurprisingly plummet in December, lawyers are having to brave a cold spell in court following reports that the heating has packed in.
HM Courts & Tribunals apologised today, saying: 'We're experiencing some heating issues in some of our courts and we're working to get these resolved as quickly as possible. We're sorry for the disruption this may cause.'
The disruption included the closure of Leeds Combined Court Centre yesterday. Barrister Ashleigh Metcalfe tweeted: 'Leeds Crown Court is shut today. No heating and water. Cases are being adjourned left, right and centre with no new dates being given. Sunday morning homework club wasted, as was my early alarm to continue working this morning.' Leeds Combined Court Centre has reopened today.
Afternoon hearings at Chester Civil Justice Centre were rescheduled. Barristers also reported lack of heating at Canterbury Crown Court and Inner London.
Hove Trial Centre is shut today.
HMCTS is halfway through a £1bn courts modernisation programme. In a report released days before election purdah began, the House of Commons justice select committee said it was 'wholly unreasonable' to expect judicial office holders, HMCTS staff and external court users 'to put up with dilapidated and uncomfortable court buildings'.
The report said: 'In January 2018, the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS accepted that maintenance of buildings in the courts and tribunals estate had been spread too thinly, with funding focused "almost exclusively on reactive responses to problems" rather than putting in place a programme of planned maintenance. At that time, the estimated maintenance backlog was around £400m and HMCTS had started a programme of building surveys to obtain accurate data on the extent of disrepair and the cost of putting it right. It was also seeking to improve its response to routine maintenance by appointing 320 "building champions" who would provide a single point of contact for facilities management contractors.'