Judiciary to demolish historic court building

The Ju­di­cia­ry has con­firmed that his­toric San Fer­nan­do Mag­is­trates Court build­ing which was closed al­most two years ago for “roof re­pairs” will be de­mol­ished.

The move came as a shock to the As­sem­bly of South­ern Lawyers (ASL) who will be seek­ing a meet­ing with the Ju­di­cia­ry.

Plans to de­mol­ish the build­ing was dis­closed by the Ju­di­cia­ry fol­low­ing a query from Guardian Me­dia about the sta­tus of the old mag­is­trates’ court.

An email from Court Pro­to­col & In­for­ma­tion Man­ag­er Carl Fran­cis, stat­ed “The as­sess­ment of the build­ing af­ter the earth­quake showed that the build­ing had sus­tained sig­nif­i­cant dam­age. The Ju­di­cia­ry has asked the Min­istry of Works to arrange to have the build­ing de­mol­ished. A site has been iden­ti­fied for a new mag­is­trates’ court build­ing to be con­struct­ed and plans are in train and un­der­way.”

Since its clo­sure, the 100-year-old build­ing has de­te­ri­o­rat­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly, with parts of the gut­ter­ing and ceil­ing falling off. The side­walk in front of the court along Har­ris Street has been cor­doned off with cau­tion tape.

How­ev­er, se­cu­ri­ty of­fi­cers from the Na­tion­al Main­te­nance Train­ing and Se­cu­ri­ty Com­pa­ny Ltd are still sta­tioned at the build­ing. The build­ing known as the old court was “tem­porar­i­ly” closed in Sep­tem­ber 2017 and the five courts were re­lo­cat­ed to the Mad­i­nah Build­ing and the San Fer­nan­do High Court, for a month to fa­cil­i­tate ur­gent ceil­ing re­pairs and as­bestos clean­ing.

The Ju­di­cia­ry then ex­tend­ed the clo­sure to No­vem­ber 13, 2017, but not­ed that even af­ter the roof re­pairs are com­plet­ed mi­nor works will still be done in­side the build­ing.

The five courts from the old court have since been re­lo­cat­ed to the High Court on the shift sys­tem which re­mains in ef­fect. Works start­ed on the build­ing, but then stopped.

Con­cerned by com­plaints by mem­bers of the pub­lic that the build­ing was breed­ing mos­qui­toes and was a haz­ard, San Fer­nan­do May­or Ju­nia Re­grel­lo had con­sid­ered tak­ing le­gal ac­tion against the Ju­di­cia­ry to force its hand to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion.

Last week Re­grel­lo said the last up­date he re­ceived was that they were await­ing the re­lease of funds to send out the ten­ders.

Say­ing it was an in­jus­tice to the peo­ple of San Fer­nan­do, the may­or said, “The build­ing is falling apart now and we still wait­ing. Of course, I know they will un­der­stand the na­ture of the ex­er­cise and the im­por­tance of get­ting it ad­dressed.”

- by Sascha Wilson

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