Slowly, a new safe, secure court emerges

The new facade at the Wangaratta court complex. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

The new facade at the Wangaratta court complex. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

IT has been a slow process, but the upgrade of Wangaratta’s court is almost complete.

A damning WorkSafe report on security and safety led the Attorney-General Robert Clark to announce in 2012 that $2.7 million would be spent on the building.

Work on the cells that the report said were unsafe was completed early last year and prisoners have been using them since February.

The jury room and disabled access to the first floor facilities for staff and the public have been upgraded since.

“Renovations completed include structural repairs and maintenance in addition to dispute resolution services within the Children’s Court section,” Justice Department spokesman David Stockman said.

A tree and bushes were removed from the front of the court about two weeks ago, replaced by a new circular feature with plants.

Painters’ scaffolding was removed at the weekend.

“They wanted it all finished before the County Court sittings began today,” court registrar Paula Griffiths said.

The finishing touches will be completed in the next couple of weeks.

Mr Clark is expected to attend an official opening in July.

The court building, which dates from the late 1930s, was one of three found to require immediate attention.

It and those at Bendigo and Shepparton were described as being “basket cases” and in need of urgent works.

The government this year set aside $73 million for a new court building at Shepparton and increased staff for a growing demand in the Hume region, which includes Wodonga, Corryong, Myrtleford, Wang- aratta, Benalla, Mansfield, Cobram, Seymour and Shepparton.

Mr Clark said the money would allow the existing Shepparton building to be replaced with a purpose-built multi-jurisdictional centre to accommodate an additional magistrate and court staff.

He said the court centre would be built on the existing site and land next door.

Court sittings would continue during its construction.

Shepparton’s new court would have five court rooms to allow the Supreme and County courts to hear more cases locally.”

The work, expected to be completed in 2017, would provide modern facilities for users and staff, he said.