Painful court

The Supreme Court Building on Whitepark Road has been in use since the October 5, 2009. Since the unofficial opening there have been complaints aplenty from the people who work there day in and day out — which have fallen on deaf ears.

Naturally, no one cares what the money-grubbing, dishonest lawyers and a few civil servants may think. Luckily for the rest of us and unluckily for her, Boneta Phillips, who is disabled and wheelchair bound was subjected most recently to the “delight” of using the facilities which house the heart of our judicial system.

Phillips indicates that she did not “realise how disadvantaged persons with disabilities really are”. I would expand that statement to encompass anyone who is required to use the physical court infrastructure.

The public bathroom at the Supreme Court Complex (of which there is only one) is located on the second floor. To access it, one must join the line at security, have one’s personal effects scanned like one is about to board an aeroplane, take the stairs

or the elevator up to the second floor and hope that the usual amenities one finds in a bathroom are available.

Random persons, including women with newborn babies, old people and the able-bodied alike, approach me in front of the complex looking quite bewildered searching for the bathroom. Bewilderment turns to incredulity when I give them the directions I have just outlined in this column (sometimes less melodramatically.) Nine out of ten times these people have been sent from the Registration Department (same building, different door, no cross-access).

The Registry is the place where all of the business which leads to any matter coming on for hearing in court occurs. It is the place where all births, deaths and marriages are registered and where every application for the consequent certificates must be made. People have to use the Registry and not just the ever-complaining lawyers.

Can you believe that in this day and age, if you are on the third floor on the Registry side of the building you have to come down to the ground floor, exit the building, walk around Whitepark Road and follow my earlier directions to get to the bathroom? The architect and the Town Planning Department should hang their heads in shame.

Philips complained about the fixed seating. It made a nice change from the assorted dining room chairs which were par for the course in the old courts at Coleridge Street, that was until one sat in them. You cannot actually sit in the chair (disabled or not) you have to perch on the end of it, unless you want the judge to consider you a disrespectful sloth, and write in your lap instead of using the desk provided because the seating is appropriately angled for a cinema.

Really, I and everyone else should be grateful since these are a vast improvement over the backless, armless marble slabs in the waiting area that she highlighted. The marble would be a great implement for a pastry chef but not so much for seating when hundreds of people have to wait inordinate amounts of time to get into the actual court room. At 10:30 on any weekday morning the place looks like the River bus terminal with overly dressed up people.

Phillips opines that “Lawyers and staff in wheelchairs could not be accommodated”; if one deletes the words “in wheelchairs” then a full grasp of the situation can be arrived at. I do not think that anyone set out deliberately to disadvantage the disabled I think it is a simply a matter of the complex not being purpose-built.

I do not think that the people who designed this building had the slightest grasp of what takes place in the average court. I do not think that it was made sufficiently clear to them, if at all, that a court is where people of all walks of life must meet and in stressful circumstances. I do not think that it was driven home that the court is a place of business, a place where people work and so in the massive square footage that dominates Whitepark Road we have one public bathroom and the disabled stall is out of order. Go figure.

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