Police take over defunct court building

The former Houghton Magistrates' Court, which is to be taken over by Northumbria Police.
The former Houghton Magistrates' Court, which is to be taken over by Northumbria Police.
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A DEFUNCT magistrates court has been taken over by police.

Houghton Magistrates’ Court, in Dairy Lane, has not been used for court cases for a number of years, with all cases involving crimes or civil actions on Wearside dealt with in Sunderland.

The site, which is joined on to the town’s police station, will now be used as part of the police’s operation after HM Courts and Tribunals Service agreed to surrender the lease of the court.

Although no formal timetable has been created for what will happen to the building, Northumbria Police say it will be put to good use sometime soon.

A spokeswoman for the force said: “The Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria holds the freehold of both the police station and magistrates’ court at Houghton.

“HM Courts and Tribunals Service have a lease of the magistrates’ court granted under the Courts Act 2003.

“Following the closure of the magistrates’ court, HM Courts and Tribunals Service have agreed to surrender their lease of the magistrates ‘court to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria.

“Legal work in connection with the lease surrender is ongoing.

“Although there are no immediate plans for the building, it will be put to good use in the future.”

The news comes just weeks after Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson challenged Justice Minister Shailesh Vara on the state of plans for Sunderland city centre’s planned new court complex.

The previous Labour government drew-up plans for a new Sunderland Justice Centre, to incorporate new magistrates, crown, and civil courts under one roof, but the scheme was put on ice when the Coalition formed by the Conservative and Liberal Democrats came to power in 2010.