Defendants with disabilities will now find it easier to use the Royal Court dock after £19,500 accessibility improvements were made.
As part of improvements to the Grade 1 Listed building, doors were widened, some pew seating was removed and a foldable ramp was installed to enable access.
The floor of the dock was also reinforced to be able to take the weight of a wheelchair if necessary.
Bailiff’s Chambers Chief Officer Steven Cartwright said the updates were quickly put in place ahead of last month’s murder retrial of Ricky Tregaskis, who required use of a power wheelchair.
Had they not been put in place, he explained, the court would have either had to consider a trial off-site or to place the defendant on a pedestal in front of the dock.
The adjustments, which involved consultation with Planning's Historic Environment Team, are now subject to a retrospective planning application.
According to Mr Cartwright, the building was last renovated in 2002. Since then new building regulations have come into force, as well as the Disability Discrimination Law, which specified that all public properties must have “reasonable adjustments” made to make them accessible for those with long-term physical or mental impairments.
Following an accessibility audit by Vic Tanner-Davy MBE of Liberate, the “key issues” have been resolved, Mr Cartwright said, but more tweaks may be made in future.
He said the latest adjustments, which cost “just shy of £19,500”, were important so as to ensure that everyone coming into contact with the justice system has the “same access and is treated fairly.”
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