For the first time since the 1980s, Huntingdon has its own Crown Court – based in a specially-built town centre facility. ANDREW McGILL took a tour of the new court building which has cost £13million to build NESTLING quietly alongside the new bus lane o

Sue Clarke, lead court manager, inside Huntingdon’s new justice centre.

For the first time since the 1980s, Huntingdon has its own Crown Court - based in a specially-built town centre facility. ANDREW McGILL took a tour of the new court building which has cost £13million to build

NESTLING quietly alongside the new bus lane on George Street, Huntingdon Justice Centre is a fairly unassuming building.

However, this modern building represents part of a huge investment in Huntingdon town centre that is set to take place over the next decade.

Huntingdon is being improved and this is just the start. No longer will court cases be heard in cramped conditions in the Town Hall in Market Square, justice now has a new home with all the facilities you would expect from a modern building.

The courtrooms, which opened yesterday (Tuesday), have state-of-the-art video screens, hearing loops for the hard of hearing and full disabled access.

Sue Clarke, lead court manager, told The Hunts Post that one of the main plus points of the new building is its multitude of consultation rooms.

"With the magistrates' court in the Town Hall, solicitors would often have to hold conferences with their clients in the public area or even the street outside," Ms Clarke said.

The centre comprises a county court, two magistrates' courts and two crown courts.

County court cases - domestic issues, contract disputes and personal injury claims - will be heard on the ground floor. These cases move from Godwin House further up George Street.

The two magistrates' courts are situated on the first floor. Here, the powers of punishment are up to a year in prison and fines of £5,000.

On the top floor lie the crown courts, one of which will operate full time and the other part-time. The most serious cases - murder and treason, for example - will still be heard at Cambridge, but Huntingdon will deal with every other kind of case, including manslaughter and sexual assaults.

With its town centre location, only judges and magistrates will be able to park at the facility and there is no café - only a series of vending machines.

For administration purposes, the justice centre is effectively a satellite of Peterborough Crown Court.

All phone calls are directed to Peterborough.

Ms Clarke added: "The important thing to stress is that the new court building will save an awful lot of travelling - for jurors, solicitors and defendants.