Calls for Chichester Crown Court to reopen for good

Chichester Crown Court should remain operating on a permanent basis after it reopened as a Nightingale court earlier this year, campaigners say.

Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 9:33 am
Lawyer Edward Cooke speaks out on Chichester Crown Court
Lawyer Edward Cooke speaks out on Chichester Crown Court

The court, which closed in 2018, is being used by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to help clear the backlog of cases which built up during the pandemic.

But Edward Cooke, a family lawyer and vocal campaigner on Chichester’s court provision, believes the court should now remain open for good.

He said: “We are delighted that the Chichester Crown Court has re-opened, not least as we fought for many years to save it from closure.

Chichester Crown Court closure protest back in 2016. Photo by Derek Martin.

“Although at present the court is open to catch up with a huge backlog of cases, we believe that the Ministry of Justice should make a decision to keep it open permanently, as this is what is desperately needed.”

The Crown Court closed in 2018 with the Magistrates’ Court closing in 2016.

Mr Cooke continued: “Even before the government announced that the building was to close back in 2016, there was a very long backlog of criminal cases. This situation has been exacerbated by the decision to close the building (despite it being a busy court) and latterly, the pandemic.

“According to MoJ figures last month, there is currently a backlog of some 58,000 Crown Court cases outstanding nationally. This means that victims of serious crime, witnesses and defendants are currently having to wait for long periods for justice to be delivered. This has a devastating impact on people’s lives. Some trials are being listed as late as 2023.

“The pandemic has really brought in sharp relief the chronic underfunding of the justice system over many years, and the impact that so many courts being closed nationally has had on the system.

“The Crown Court building is an iconic, purpose built building which should be retained to meet the needs of the Chichester district and indeed it is vital public service.”

An MoJ spokesperson said: “We are temporarily utilising the former Combined Court building in Chichester as a Nightingale venue, providing much needed Crown Court capacity as part of court recovery plans.

“We keep our court recovery plans under close review, and we will announce in due course when this temporary arrangement will end.”