Some people face a three-hour trip to have their case heard. Others have no legal representation. Even judges are calling it ‘hell’
Courts are strange places. Some, like Snaresbrook crown court in east London, could be mistaken from the outside for a stately home – a grand listed building set beside a lake. Once inside, though, there’s no mistaking its status as part of the unloved criminal justice estate – low ceilings, headache-inducing strip lighting, threadbare furnishings. Others are eerie, like Isleworth, south-west London, which used to be a mental institution.
Many courts, however, are as unlovely as they are unloved. Postwar multiplexes with little going for them, tolerated by all who use them as a necessary evil in the work that we do. The government touted the closure of 230 of these buildings since 2010 as a good thing, because the income from selling them off would be ploughed back into improving the rest. But it’s no surprise, given the state of these courts, that they have failed to generate enough money to deliver on that promise. Guardian analysis shows that sales so far have generated just £34m – roughly what the government spent on just one “change management” consultancy contract from PricewaterhouseCoopers. The idea that you improve courts by closing them is just the latest in a cycle of dystopian logic in which cuts to public funding create delay and decay, thereby justifying further cuts.
It’s no wonder judges are among those who have raised concerns about 'hasty justice'
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