There are calls for a new courthouse in Gloucestershire after a report labelled the county’s facilities as ‘demeaning, inaccessible and substandard’.
The report reveals a number of issues highlighted by notable members of the Gloucestershire community including retired resident Judge at Gloucester Crown Court, Judge Jamie Tabor and Nick Gazzard – Father of Hollie Gazzard, who was murdered by her ex-partner.
The report, compiled by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, notes that Gloucestershire is one of only six counties in the UK to have just one magistrates’ court.
It also cites the decision of recently-retired resident Judge Jamie Tabor to transfer any case involving a defendant, victim or witness with mobility issues out of the county. “No one should commence giving evidence by being carried into a courtroom — it was demeaning and humiliating for those involved”, said Judge Tabor.
Gloucestershire has lost five courthouses since 2010, leaving just Cheltenham magistrates’ court, Gloucester crown court and a combined civil and family court also in Gloucester as the only houses of justice in the county.
Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl, who commissioned the report entitled Court Provision in Gloucestershire – An overview, would now like to see a new one built.
“This is no reflection on the many dedicated people who work in our courts. Whether staff, victims or witnesses, they all deserve to fulfil their different roles in better working conditions,” he said.
“The court community in Gloucestershire has long been aware of the substandard facilities on offer. As our courthouses have reduced in number over the years, so too has the county’s ability to administer justice locally.
“The apparent change in the Government’s approach makes me hopeful that if all the parties with a legal interest in this issue can come together and agree on a plan, now could be the time to at last get something done.
“We cannot sit back and allow local justice to be administered from a regional centre like Bristol. We must do all we can to prevent that from happening”.
Mr Surl offered land next to the police headquarters in Quedgeley, but says he would also support any suitable alternative site.
The proposed ‘justice centre’ would include both criminal and civil courts.
Discussions with Gloucestershire County Council and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service are underway.