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Magistrates Courts

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2023

I recognise that there continues to be work to be done to improve conditions in some magistrates courts for the users, and that is why we have boosted the capital investment programme to £220 million over the next two years to March 2025 to improve the quality and enhance the resilience of the court and tribunal estate, allowing us to plan major projects much more in advance and with certainty. The improvements will ensure that those on the frontline of the justice system will benefit from buildings that are more accessible and sustainable.

We speak of access to justice meaning the availability of legal advice and representation but, for too many older and disabled people, physical access to justice through the magistrates courts in particular is well-nigh impossible because the buildings themselves are not fit for purpose. Actually, “not fit for purpose” was the term used to describe the magistrates courts in the Secretary of State’s constituency by the former police and crime commissioner. Do we not need more swift action to remedy the problem than the Minister has outlined?

I took quite a bit of time to read the report from the Magistrates Association on inaccessible courts to ensure that, where we can make reasonable adjustments, we make them, and that where we need to make more substantial investment to make the courts more accessible, particularly to make them compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, we do so and those works are prioritised. We continue to work on new courts, as in Blackpool and the City of London, to ensure that the estate is modernised and we have courts that are accessible and fit for purpose. The point is well made and it is in hand.