Verdict promised over future of new Sunderland court complex

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UNDER-FIRE justice ministers have promised a decision on Sunderland’s new court complex by early next year.

The multimillion-pound development, which would include new magistrates, county and crown courts, is earmarked for the Farringdon Row regeneration site opposite the existing magistrates’ building.

The justice centre would also deal with cases from Houghton, which lost its own magistrates’ court under Government closures.

But the project was thrown into doubt when it was one of a number of projects put under review in light of funding cuts.

Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson demanded answers from the Ministry of Justice in an official Parliamentary question.

Junior Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said: “The business case for new court facilities in Sunderland is in the process of being examined to establish its priority in an updated court building programme.

“Officials are reviewing all deferred court projects, of which the Sunderland project is one. The review is planned to be completed by February 2012.”

Ms Phillipson said she would continue to press the Government to agree funding for the new justice centre, which she claimed was promised when Houghton’s court was closed.

She said: “The closure of Houghton Magistrates’ Court was a major disappointment and it makes it all the more vital that the new court and proposed crown court goes ahead.

“I will continue to push the Ministry of Justice to release funding for the development, which is also important to regenerate Farringdon Row.”

Justice chiefs have promised an impressive building but need the funding to make it a reality,

The new complex would have a criminal court with eight magistrates court rooms and a smaller number of crown courts, and a separate wing with family and civil courts. There will also be facilities for employment tribunals.