Word has now emerged that the St. John’s Magistrates’ Court will return to its High and Temple Streets location by December of this year, 2022.
A source tells REAL News that an engineer and architect met on Tuesday, July 26, with Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh to get her input on the design and refurbishment of the court.
Reportedly, the Magistrate had little to say and only acknowledged the time for completion.
For years, the High Street Court – which once housed the Registry of Births and Deaths – has been riddled with issues, including a leaking roof, cracked and raised floor tiles and an infestation of mold inside.
These and other challenges prompted the sitting Administration to relocate the court to the Knuckle Block premises that were intended to be a Community Centre for the residents of Grays-Green.
The relocation had been expected to last only a year; however, four years later, repairs are only now being undertaken at the court’s original location.
A source says that only a part of the roof has been completed, while much more work remains to be done on the formerly condemned building.
Concerns are being raised that the structure, even after repair, will still present issues that will require further work and more money.
A suggestion had been made that the court be temporarily moved to the very spacious John E. St. Luce Finance Centre on Factory Road, while a new location is sourced for the construction of a Justice Complex to house all the lower courts.
However, this suggestion, the source says, was not given any consideration.
Another recommendation was that the revenues generated by the court –through fines and forfeitures among other measures – could be put toward the construction of a permanent home. These funds, at present, are deposited into the Government’s coffers and used for other purposes.
According to the source, if this proposal had been given serious attention, the Justice Complex could have been completed already or would be near completion now.
But, the source says, the authorities seem to have no interest in the lower courts where all criminal cases are generated.
In late June, the Cabinet announced that renovations were being completed to pave the way for the Magistrates Court to return to its usual premises.
At the time, Senator Richard Lewis said he was not as convinced as others were that the court would be returned to its High Street location in as short a time as the Cabinet Notes made out.
In fact, he said that he would believe it when he sees it, and dismissed the announcement as an election ploy.
Lewis has been at the forefront of the agitation for the court to be moved and the community centre handed over to Grays-Green residents.
The centre was a gift from the People’s Republic of China at the request of former Prime Minister Dr. Winston Baldwin Spencer, who served as parliamentary representative for the area.