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Ipswich: Fuel shortage leaves court and defendants in the dark

PUBLISHED: 10:08 14 February 2013 | UPDATED: 10:09 14 February 2013

South East Suffolk Magistrates Court

South East Suffolk Magistrates Court

Archant

THE wheels of justice ground to a halt after a generator ran out of fuel and plunged South East Suffolk Magistrates Court into virtual darkness.

HM Court Service has vowed it will be business as usual today after electricity was restored to the courtrooms and the waiting area which were left shrouded in gloom by a power cut yesterday.

The outage heralded a day of disruption – and all because someone had not replenished the diesel in the power unit.

Defendants, magistrates, prosecutors, solicitors, and civilian staff were all asked to leave the building shortly after 10.15am.

A few minutes later they were moved to the muster point at the junction of Black Horse Lane and Elm Street.

At one stage an estimated 70-80 people were standing around outside the walls of the Black Horse public house.

After about 20 minutes most were allowed back inside the magistrates’ court, but there was still no light to lift the gloom.

Some solicitors resorted to calling out the names of their clients in a bid to find them.

Around 11am a decision was made to adjourn two trials until lunchtime. Two further hearings for people who were remanded in custody were sent to Ipswich Crown Court.

Shortly afterwards the remaining 21 cases on the morning list were also sent to the crown court. These were subsequently followed by the 15 cases on the afternoon list.

The magistrates’ court had been loaned the generator by UK Power Networks after roadworks in Civic Drive were said to have led to the building suffering previous temporary power failures.

However, yesterday’s outage meant the four courts which were sitting were heavily disrupted.

Niamh Arnett, of UK Power Networks said: “UK Power Networks apologises for the disruption at Ipswich magistrates’ court due to a power failure.

“Following problems with the power supply to the building we installed a temporary generator on February 2 to maintain supplies while we fixed an underground cable fault.

“Engineers have completed extensive work to repair the cable and the court’s power supply was returned to the mains at 2.41pm today.

“We are investigating with our contractor why the generator ran out of fuel on this rare occasion.”

A spokeswoman for HM Court Service said: “I can confirm that power was restored so the court will be running normally on Thursday.

“The power went down at about 10.15am and the decision was taken at around 11am to transfer work out in order to ensure the least disruption to court business.

“The remand court was held at Ipswich Crown Court, the family proceedings court sat at the county court.

“The trials were held in the rooms at the magistrates’ court which are used by the tribunals service as they have natural light. As a result all court business went ahead.”

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