The court service is to spend £120,000 revamping Boston Magistrates’ Court and refusing to spend a penny to re-open the “de-listed” Spalding court.
MP John Hayes has asked Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling to intervene in the “bizarre” and “unnecessary” building works at Boston authorised by the court service.
He is not against disabled access but says a wheelchair lift is due to be installed at Boston Magistrates’ Court for magistrates – when there is no disabled magistrate – and alterations are scheduled for a perfectly good court room.
But Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) say they are making the “judicial entrance” compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act because “there are tribunal panel members that require wheelchair access to the court rooms”.
Spalding Magistrates’ Court was “de-listed” on December 19 – all cases are now heard in Boston, Skegness, Grantham and Lincoln, denying defendants and witnesses from South Holland justice on their doorstep.
Spalding’s work was stripped away after a secret health and safety report found a problem after someone reportedly slipped on stairs from the cells to the dock.
The South Holland and The Deepings MP met the Lord Chancellor in January because he’s fighting to keep the Spalding court “operational to ensure local justice is served”.
A second meeting is planned, but Mr Hayes has already written to Mr Grayling about the building work at Boston.
His letter says: “I have recently been informed that a team of builders are soon to be employed to refurbish Court Room 2 and rearrange the layout at Boston Magistrates’ Court.
“I have been advised that the current layout of Court Room 2 is modern and fit for purpose.
“Furthermore, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service are planning to install a wheelchair lift so that a disabled magistrate could gain access to Court Room 1, even though there are currently no disabled magistrates and no new appointments are scheduled until at least 2015.
“It seems unfair that there is no money to spend on Spalding Magistrates’ Court but there appears to be unnecessary and costly alterations being undertaken at Boston.”
The court service refused to publish its health and safety report about the Spalding court’s stairs.
A question about fire safety at the court was raised by the Lord Chancellor for the first time when he met Mr Hayes in January – but no details were forthcoming from the court service then about any fire risk.
Mr Hayes said: “You are left asking the question if there can be sufficient resources to make these investments in Boston, how is it that improvements to the Spalding court, which would at least deal with fire safety and health and safety, is deemed to be unaffordable? It can’t be unaffordable in Spalding but affordable in Boston.”