Justice Minister Shailesh Vara, failed to accept an invitation by Houghton and Sunderland South MP, Bridget Phillipson to visit staff and facilities at Sunderland Magistrates Court as part of her campaign for a new centre for justice.

At Justice Questions, the constituency MP asked the Minister for Courts to visit and see for himself the case for a new court.

Bridget Phillipson: Last November, I and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott) met the Minister to press the case for the much-promised rebuilding of Sunderland’s court complex, but unfortunately, since then, nothing has happened. Will he now join us, visit Sunderland and see the state of the existing court buildings and the impact these new courts could have in the regeneration of the city centre?

Mr Vara: The hon. Lady is right to refer to our meeting about this matter and will be aware that in March we announced a court reform programme to ensure that the courts and tribunals of this country met the expectations of the public in the 21st century. Any decisions about the site in Farringdon row in Sunderland will be taken in the context of that reform programme. Currently, no decisions have been taken about the site.

Read the full debate here.

Construction of a new £2.6 million court was put on hold by the Conservative-led government in 2010. Bridget has been campaigning with Sunderland Labour colleague Julie Elliott MP for a new court ever since.

Commenting after the debate, Bridget Phillipson MP said:

“It’s disappointing that the minister did not accept my invitation to see for himself the condition of the existing court.

“The current facilities have served their purpose, but were built for the needs of a previous century. We need new facilities fit for victims of crime and those working to bring perpetrators to justice.”

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