Sheffield Crown Court is out of commission after a ‘catastrophic’ burst pipe flooded all floors of the court building including the cells, the Gazette has learned. Until the pipe is fixed and the court building cleaned, the court will be closed.
All hearings from Crown court have been adjourned, with the exception of two urgent cases, the Ministry of Justice said. For hearings today and tomorrow, parties will be informed if an alternative venue has been arranged or their case is adjourned. County court and tribunal hearings have not been impacted by the flooding, with the exception of one civil hearing.
The flooding is the latest of several closures caused by the condition of the courts estate. Sheffield magistrate court flooded last Christmas, the Law Society said, and members reported colleagues having to ‘paddle out’ of the building. Nearby Doncaster magistrates court was closed in October last year due to the discovery of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).
Mike Jones, a member of the Law Society’s criminal law committee who is based in the area, 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 the cost of repairs to flood damage to Sheffield ’may slow down still further the general renewal of the court estate that is vitally needed to keep the wheels of justice turning’.
He added: ‘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,’ he said. ’The government’s own unambitious target of reducing the Crown Ccurt backlog to 53,000 by March 2025 seems even more unrealistic.’
A spokesperson for HMCTS said that the combined court site ’will remain closed on Monday and Tuesday to allow for urgent repair work to be carried out. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes.’