Outcry as sweating defendants and staff left feeling heat at Dungannon courthouse

Dungannon Court  INTT2712-137JS
Dungannon Court INTT2712-137JS

Sweating court staff and defendants have complained about the unbearable heat at Dungannon Courthouse after the building’s radiators were left on full blast during the recent heat wave.

Staff registered five official complaints with the Department of Justice from June 3 to June 10 over the excessive temperatures, which were exacerbated by the apparent lack of air-conditioning.

DUP peer Maurice Morrow has raised the issue at the Northern Ireland Assembly demanding an explanation for the delay in the intolerable working conditions, and querying whether or not they constituted a health and safety issue.

Each week, Dungannon courthouse hosts several sittings including the busy magistrate’s court, crown court and county courts. The three storey building houses two main courtrooms, a juvenile court, and an informal courtroom.

A regular court visitor complained that the courtrooms really heated up during the hot weather.

According to the Department of Justice, the complaints were escalated to a high priority request on June 10, when the temperature in the building was reduced.

“The first concern regarding the heating in Dungannon Courthouse was raised with Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) on 3 June 2016”, said Minister Claire Sudgen in response to Morrow’s written questions.

“Since that date the issue has been raised a further four times, once on 7 June 2016 and three times on 10 June 2016.

“A request was made to Properties Division of the Department of Finance on 7 June; this was escalated to a high priority request on the 10 June. No further issues have been raised about the temperature in Dungannon courtrooms.”

She added that there was no maximum workplace temperature under Health and Safety law, however, there was a duty to provide a comfortable working environment. “Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service aims to keep all buildings in the estate between 21-23°C to ensure comfortable working conditions for staff and court users.”