The original or "historic" Royal Court building has proved to be remarkably flexible since its construction in accommodating the changing needs of the judicial and parliamentary functions and systems housed there. It provided for a very wide range of users, including the Bailiff and Judiciary, the Law Officers, the Guernsey Bar, the States of Deliberation, HM Greffier, HM Sheriff and the Prison, Police and Probation Services. It has also provided service to those coming through the Court system - plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses and victims of crime, as well as their friends and family.
However, as the 20th Century drew to a close, it became clear that many improvements needed to be made, including:
• The need for more court rooms to deal with increasing caseloads - the number of Court sessions had doubled to 1500 per annum since the 1980s (and have since increased by a further 25%);
• Additional offices for the Judiciary and staff required to support the increased number of proceedings;
• Improving security at the Court building by properly separating the many different Court users, including segregation of victims and witnesses, defendants, the Judiciary and Court staff;
• The need to provided dedicated facilities for witnesses and victims of crime within the Court, including separate waiting facilities and the ability to give evidence by video link;
• Providing disabled and wheelchair access to all parts of the Court;
• The provision of the necessary infrastructure to support changing technology, including digital recording of Court proceedings.
The aim was also to provide a modern, airy and less oppressive environment for the sometimes lengthy proceedings surrounding a trial.
Plans were therefore developed for an extension to the "historic" Court building, which was to be built over the site of the old prison building, which was demolished as part of the scheme. Careful consideration was given to ensuring that the new construction blended in with its historic surroundings, whilst at the same time offering the modern and secure environment required for all concerned. There was also the need to ensure that the day to day operation of the judicial and parliamentary systems could be maintained during the building and development work.
The extension was completed in 2005 and the first Court hearings were held in the new building in December of that year. At this time, all existing operations in the "historic" building were "decanted" into the new building whilst the old one was completely refurbished. Meetings of the States of Deliberation were temporarily relocated from the Royal Court Chamber in the historic building to Court 1 in the extension during 2006 whilst the careful and sensitive renovation of the original building was undertaken.
The project to refurbish the historic building was completed in December of 2006. At that point, the physical links between the old building and the new extension were opened to provide an integrated Court complex, the main features of which include:
• two criminal court rooms, with dedicated access to the secure docks from purpose built prisoner holding cells
• two civil court rooms
• the Royal Court Chamber, used for ceremonial occasions, civil court sittings and meetings of the States of Deliberation
• a dedicated wedding room for the performance of marriages
• integrated office accommodation for the Judiciary and the staff of the Bailiff's Chambers, the Office of HM Greffier and the Office of HM Sheriff;
• a dedicated victim and witness support suite, manned and operated by the Victim and Witness Support Service.
The Island now has a Royal Court complex which every element of the community can use with confidence and which successfully combines the needs of a present day community with the preservation of its heritage.