EXTENSIVE and expensive refurbishments have been carried out at Swindon’s law courts.

Both the Crown and Magistrates courts have had new facilities added and old ones rejuvenated after receiving £2.6 million of government funding.

Extra hearing rooms and judicial chambers have been added, new kitchen facilities and furniture have been installed, the office areas have been fully refurbished and a new public waiting room has been created.

Solicitor General and MP for South Swindon, Robert Buckland said: “Having pressed hard for Swindon on this issue, I warmly welcome these vital improvements to our Magistrates’ and Combined Courts, which will be of real benefit to the public and to the hardworking court staff too.”

Justin Tomlinson MP said: “Ensuring that everyone can easily access justice is one of the cornerstones of our society. It’s fantastic news that our court facilities in the town centre have been modernised & expanded as part of the Government’s efforts to bring the judicial system into the 21st Century.

"This £2.6 million refurbishment will ensure that everyone who has to use our court system can do so in an open and modern site”

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said: “I’m delighted court users in Swindon are already benefitting from this significant government investment.

“Court appearances can often come at difficult and emotional times in a person’s life, so we are committed to making our estate as efficient and comfortable as possible.

“Our justice system is one of the greatest in the world and we are determined to ensure it is fit for the 21st century.”

The Advertiser approached numerous solicitors’ offices in Swindon to see what they thought of the improvements, but no-one was available or willing to comment.

The re-decorations caused a significant issue in March this year when the cells at Swindon Magistrates Court had to be put out of action for a week when it was discovered that their new coat of paint was giving off toxic fumes.

Prisoners had to be dealt with via a video link service at police stations and prisons because there was nowhere to keep them secure at the courthouse while they waited to be called up for their cases.

During that week, solicitors were unable to see their clients for face-to-face instructions, while others in custody had to be transported to Salisbury Crown Court, 45 miles away, to have their hearings. It also meant that some defendants could not be remanded in custody.

After that hiccup, the renovations went fairly smoothly.

They are part of a £1 billion reform programme which aims to bring new technology and more modern ways of working to the justice system.

So far, in addition to the updates to Swindon’s Crown and Magistrates courts, the initiative has delivered a new system for applying for divorce online which has cut errors in application forms from 40 per cent to one per cent, a new online civil money claims service which allows members of the public to make small claims via the internet, a new probate system in testing which the government says has reduced the amount of errors and quickened the process, a pilot of fully-video hearings in tax tribunals which could be rolled out where appropriate across the courts and tribunals system, and the national implementation of a new in-court system which allows staff to record the results of cases digitally and instantly.