UPDATE 10/8/17: The press room closure at Westminster Magistrates’ Court is understood to be the result of the Government’s decision to close Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court, with cases and staff transferring to Westminster as a result.
Additional space to accommodate the relocation of staff and operations has resulted in the press room being given up for use by legal professionals, Press Gazette understands.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court has 13 consultation rooms with power outlets and seating areas across three floors with power outlets that can be used by the media, it is understood.
The press room at “the most important magistrates’ court in the country” has been shut to journalists and turned into a room for legal advocates.
Journalists have taken to Twitter to complain about the closure, which they say has happened without consultation despite the court being well attended by the press.
Freelance journalist Bruce Thain said: “Outrage from reporters at finding the Westminster Mags Court press room has been closed and turned into an advocates room.”
London Evening Standard court reporter Tristin Kirk said: “It’s a disgrace that the most important magistrates court in the country no longer has a press room. No consultation before this happened.”
Twitter user Alexander Brown added: “When I was covering the courts, there was at least one person at Westminster every day.”
HM Courts and Tribunals Service, which manages all criminal, civil and family courts and tribunals in England and Wales, said the closure was down to lack of use.
It said in a statement on Twitter: “We had to maximise space and the press room was little used. Press can use consultation rooms and power points are available for charging.”
But Ben Smith, a reporter with news agency Court News UK, tweeted: “Got kicked out of a consultation room this morning. It’s okay though I’ll sit on the floor by a power point in front of everyone.”
Press Association reporter Nina Massey added: “Where am I supposed to file from/charge my devices so I can file. We aren’t allowed to use sockets elsewhere in the building.”