December 6 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
An 18th century building which is used to house judges when they come to Norwich to hear cases is being earmarked for closure by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
Tower House, in Bracondale, was used for just eight weeks last year. It is one of two under-used properties being considered for closure by the MoJ which is looking to close down some of the country’s most expensive lodgings for judges.
The judges would be moved into hotel or bed and breakfast accommodation instead.
Tower House, which is owned by the MoJ, is a Grade II listed building which boasts its own folly, has a front-of-house manager and a chef and currently costs £3,079 per night or almost £15,000 a week to house a judge.
But justice secretary Chris Grayling is conducting a review which aims to reduce the £5m accommodation bill for judges who travel around the country to hear cases.
An MoJ spokesman said: “Given the current financial climate, the justice secretary is reviewing all departmental spending, including on this accommodation, to ensure value for the taxpayer whilst providing High Court judges with a secure and suitable environment that gives them the privacy to work on cases and judgments.
“The most serious and complex cases, both criminal and civil, are heard by high court judges in courts near to where the events took place and in a place most convenient to parties and witnesses. High court Judges are based in London and need accommodation, often for long periods of time, when they hear cases outside London.”
The MoJ has 15 permanent properties maintained by a team of 27 full-time staff and 22 part-time workers including managers, chefs, housekeepers and cleaners.
But it also leases another 17 premises – including hotels and luxury bed-and-breakfast establishments – which are used when needed.
A spokesman for the judiciary said: “The lord chief justice has discussed the issue with the secretary of state for justice and has agreed to a review of spending on judges’ accommodation that will continue to ensure high court judges are provided with a secure and suitable environment to work on cases and judgements. No decisions have been made yet.”