Courts reach boiling point during cold snap

Whingeing about the weather is an ancient British tradition. So when a November cold snap combined with a crumbling court infrastructure, the sound of lawyers crying “we’re freezing” could be heard across the land.

Dominic Raab, the lord chancellor, and his officials at the Ministry of Justice were inundated with complaints on Twitter flagging up broken court heating systems that had forced trials to be adjourned.

Julian Hayes, a criminal law solicitor, told the justice secretary and his civil servants that it was “utterly disgraceful” that three juries were sent home at Inner London crown court owing to “sub-zero temperatures”.

Michael Cogan, a crime specialist barrister, was equally annoyed with the conditions at the crown court, which he described as “like working in a freezer”.

Heating problems were not confined to courts in the capital. Similar reports came from several crown courts on the south coast and the Midlands, with one barrister complaining that “the temperature in the robing room where two out of three [rape and sexual offences] cases were stood out . . . was glacial”.

And problems extended beyond malfunctioning radiators. A reporter for the Oxford Mail newspaper tweeted that a judge in the city had told lawyers that because lights around the cells were malfunctioning, no custody cases could be called.

Crumbling courts are not a new phenomenon. Judges, lawyers, court staff and even the poor old punters have been complaining for several years of leaking pipes, falling ceilings and freezing temperatures.

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