London courtroom shut down after ceiling collapses onto usher’s desk

A ceiling tile crashed down on to the usher’s desk at Inner London crown court (Criminal Bar Association)
A ceiling tile crashed down on to the usher’s desk at Inner London crown court (Criminal Bar Association)

Ministers are facing fresh demands for urgent court funding after part of the ceiling fell down in one of London’s courtrooms.

Debris was left scattered around an usher’s desk after the incident on Friday last week in the annex building at Inner London crown court.

No one was hurt by the falling ceiling tile, but it led to the closure of the courtroom for safety checks to be carried out.

The ceiling collapse came just days after a staff member at Snaresbrook crown court received an electric shock and suffered minor injuries.

Harrow crown court is currently closed for up to nine months after potentially dangerous RAAC concrete was discovered in the roof area. The Ministry of Justice has refused to say which other courts are undergoing safety checks.

The Law Society of England and Wales conducted a survey last year which highlighted grave concerns about the state of the court estate, including 30 per cent of respondents describing London’s courts as not fit for purpose.

“We have long highlighted the dismal state of courts across the country, including Snaresbrook and Inner London”, said Law Society president Lubna Shuja.

“Our court estate is literally falling apart.  These problems must be taken seriously by the government right now.

“Urgent investment is needed immediately to ensure we have courts that are fit-for-purpose.  Otherwise, the shambolic state of many of our courts will continue to add to further delays at a time when the courts are overwhelmed with record backlogs of cases.”

The Criminal Bar Association posted pictures of the ceiling collapse at Inner London on social media, with the comment: “There remains a physical reality of a downgraded and neglected collective public space that court users are compelled to travel through and the place of work for criminal barristers and judges alike.

“Dripping and crumbling ceilings and walls in robing rooms, court corridors and court rooms along with the health hazards of ripped carpets and chairs and broken and dirty washrooms sends an unwelcome signal to both criminal barristers, judges and all those caught up in the justice system that their working lives are not valued.”

Last month the government announced £120m in funding for modernisation and repair work on the courts estate.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The improvements to the court estate will ensure those on the front line of the justice system will benefit from modern energy efficient heating and cooling systems to projects that will make our buildings accessible and sustainable."

The department said the ceiling collapse at Inner London is not related to the RAAC concrete scandal.