BBK Manifesto: Making courtrooms more accessible and safe | Bolt Burdon Kemp BBK Manifesto: Making courtrooms more accessible and safe | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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BBK Manifesto: Making courtrooms more accessible and safe

In 2020 we conducted research into the accessibility of Britian’s civil and criminal courthouses and the results were shaming.

In our research we used 11 different factors relating to a variety of accessibility requirements. We found only 2% of the courthouses are fully accessible (ie. met all the accessibility requirements) and 84% of courthouses were not fully accessible for wheelchair users.

Only 22% of courthouses offer witness care services such as a secure witness suite, access to the Citizens Advice Witness Service, a vulnerable witness waiting area separate from the public waiting area, or a quiet room for people with anxiety and other mental health issues.

We see first-hand the difficulties our clients go through before attending court, whether they have recently suffered major trauma, or have come to terms with historic abuse for which they have summoned tremendous courage to seek redress. Being made uncomfortable in court because the buildings are not properly equipped adds an extra sense of discomfort, making an already distressing time even more difficult.

We also see the information on official websites such as Court Tribunal Finder is not always accurate.

It is vital accessibility information on these sites is accurate and as complete as possible to make things more straightforward for court users.

In 2023 the Lord Chancellor did announce some improvements. This included staff at the Royal Courts of Justice re-launching their Disability Contact Officer network. This network of staff devotes time to supporting individuals with disabilities when using the courts.

In the same year, the Lord Chancellor announced £220 million to be spent to improve and modernise the buildings within the court estate. However, with the size and scale of improvements needed I am unsure how far this funding will go. With the announcement of the General Election, it is also unclear whether this pledge will continue under the next government and how much has already been spent.

Whoever wins the next election it is clear they need to invest in our courthouses and ensure they are accessible for those with disabilities.

This blog is part of our #ChampioningChange Campaign, specifically, Bolt Burdon Kemp’s 2024 Manifesto for Injured People. In this campaign we call for politicians and prospective candidates to have regard to the issues facing injured people as policies are discussed ahead of the 2024 General Election. This work is informed by our clients’ experiences and our partnerships with charities which support our clients and others like them. If you would like to read more about our full manifesto you can do so here.

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