The Law Society have heard from their members that Sheffield Crown Court had a catastrophic burst pipe flood overnight [Thursday 11th January 2024] which has inundated all floors, including cells. The court is now out of commission until this is fixed and cleaned.
This is not the first time this has happened in Sheffield’s criminal courts, with members reporting colleagues having to ‘paddle’ out of the magistrates’ court building when it flooded last Christmas.
The situation has been made worse by the closure of nearby Doncaster Magistrates’ Court due to Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in October of last year, another blow to the South Yorkshire courts estate.
Mike Jones, a member of the Law Society’s criminal law committee, is based in the area and said: “It will be impossible for Sheffield Crown Court to utilise the old Doncaster Crown Court, which has only one courtroom as the Doncaster magistrates’ have been sitting there for a few months – their building is due to take 9-12 months to fix.
“Sheffield Magistrates’ Court limps along and has had regular closures due to unresolved problems with the heating system. We often decamp to the Crown Court as the cells often reach below acceptable temperatures. The structure is generally falling apart.”
Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: “We are seeing the degradation of the courts estate across England and Wales due to decades of underinvestment. Floods, ceilings caving in, broken heating, mould – the list of the examples we hear from our members goes on.
“The shambolic state of our courts contributes to the soaring backlog of cases waiting to be heard and strains to breaking point a criminal justice system that is already on its knees. National figures show the Crown Court outstanding caseload continues to rise, standing at 65,077 in November 2023.*The government’s own unambitious target of reducing the Crown Court backlog to 53,000 by March 2025 seems even more unrealistic.
“The cost of repairs to flood damage to Sheffield Crown Court may slow down still further the general renewal of the court estate that is vitally needed to keep the wheels of justice turning.”
Outstanding cases are on the rise, with 370,090 outstanding cases in November 2023 at the magistrates’ court, up from 340,102 in November 2022.
In the Crown Court, the backlog stood at 65,077 in November 2023, compared to 61,526 in November 2022.
Written by: Rother Radio