Judges’ trials: cold rooms, no water and leaky aircon and coat hangers placed too high
28th November 2021
BITTERLY cold judicial chambers, broken doorbells, the mysterious disappearance of stationery and a leak into a wardrobe were among the issues flagged by judges about their offices.
A log of requests from the Courts Service also details issues with a coat hanger that was too high, radiators that were too hot, low pressure in taps, and one judge being forced to buy bottled water for nearly a year because no drinking water was available.
In one request, the office of High Court Judge Denis McDonald asked for an electric heater to be supplied last winter as a “matter of urgency” for new chambers at Phoenix House in Dublin.
“The chambers at the moment are uninhabitable as they are so cold and there is no radiator in them. There will be a judge sitting in this new court for the next few months, so it is essential that they are able to work in chambers between court sittings,” an email said.
Another request detailed how a table in the chambers of Justice Séamus Woulfe lost a leg in the summer, according to records.
“Please note Justice Woulfe’s second desk in his chambers is standing on three legs, the fourth leg fell off in front of me last Friday,” an email said.
Justice David Barniville wrote to ask for furnishing of his new chambers, which he said were “very empty and lacking in much if any furniture”.
He said with remote hearings he was conducting a lot of his work there, asking for a good-sized table, the possible transfer of a sofa and chair from his old office, and wondering if there was a “rug to put on the bare wooden floor”.
One judicial assistant wrote about how Judge Teresa Pilkington had two doorbells on her chambers but neither of them was working.
“I was wondering when they could be fixed, as soon as possible,” said an email from last September. “As it means that visitors to her chambers are unable to communicate that they are outside.”
An assistant to Judge Mark Heslin wrote to ask if radiators in his chambers could be turned off permanently and asked if an unused armchair could be removed to make more room. An air conditioning unit also sprung a leak in his rooms, according to the records.
“The leak has dripped down into the wardrobe,” said an email in October 2020. “I don’t think he (the judge) is overly concerned about the wardrobe but if the unit could be repaired ASAP, he would really appreciate it.”
A stationery pack and court book disappeared from one judge’s office, with nobody quite sure where they had gone to.
“The stationery seems to have gone amiss in the meantime and just querying if it might have been put aside elsewhere by staff?” an email said.
Another judge had difficulty accessing a hanger in her new chambers and asked if it could be dropped one foot in height.
Water pressure was an issue in one office, where a cold tap was providing “only a dribble”.
Water was also a problem for Judge John O’Connor, who had flagged issues with the drinking water supply in his chambers in November 2019. An email a year later said: “There appears to be no progress on the water front since the email below 12 months ago. I confirm I continue on a daily basis to buy bottled water as the only alternative is water from the washbasin in the toilet.”
Excessive heat was flagged by one judge in his court in Phoenix House in June. An email said: “The court is extremely hot and is becoming quite uncomfortable or alternatively if the heating can be changed to a more suitable setting.”
A spokesman for the Courts Service said: “Since the start of Covid we have concentrated on making our offices, workspaces, and courtrooms safer to work in.
“We are pleased we were able to accommodate the reasonable number and reasonable nature of the requests for changed facilities.”