State of MoJ buildings ‘an embarrassment’, says lord chief justice

22 Nov 18

The Ministry of Justice’s estate is an “embarrassment” after “a long history of underfunding”, according to the lord chief justice.

Lord Burnett of Maldon blamed a lack of funding from central government for the “dilapidated state of court buildings”, in a scathing evidence session to the justice select committee on Tuesday.

Burnett, the head of the judiciary for England and Wales, noted that court buildings have leaky roofs, broken lifts and dysfunctional heating systems.

He told the committee that it was “completely unreasonable” to expect members of the public and judges to endure “buildings which are an embarrassment”.

Burnett called on the government to “recognise that we have got to the stage where there needs to be proper investment rather than sticking plasters”.

In the autumn Budget documents released last month, it was revealed that the Ministry of Justice would see its budget cut by £300m in 2019-20, and since 2010 the MoJ’s budget has been cut by 40%.

Burnett said: “We are all conscious of the way in which money has been sucked out of the system,” and added that going forward a “substantial amount of money” needs to be spent.

Other key challenges faced by the judicial system, he said, were the recruitment and retention of new judges, low morale of the judiciary and the need to modernise the courts system.

Appearing before the select committee on Wednesday, HM chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke concurred that significant investment was needed in the MoJ’s estate.

Addressing the impending cuts to the MoJ’s budget Clarke said: “I just hope that £300m is not going to be taken out from that part of the budget which deals with improving the physical conditions of prisons, because there is an enormous need to invest in much of our estate”.

He also told the committee the reports he publishes on behalf of the HMP inspectorate were “not being taken seriously”.

He said that out of 242 recommendations made for four prisons, which had been inspected, only 62 were met.

A MoJ spokesperson said: “Since 2015/16 we have invested around £114 million to improve our court buildings, and secured from the recent Budget a further £15 million to spend this year on maintenance and security.”

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