Preston judge makes parting plea to keep ‘finest’ court open

VENUE: Judge Russell has spoken out on the court based in Lancaster Castle
VENUE: Judge Russell has spoken out on the court based in Lancaster Castle
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A top Preston judge has made a parting plea to ensure Lancaster Crown Court is kept open in the future.

Judge Anthony Russell QC, who is retiring, described the crown court at Lancaster Castle as “probably the finest in the country.”

Judge Anthony Russell QC

Judge Anthony Russell QC

The Courts and Tribunal Service said there were no plans to close Lancaster Crown Court.

Judge Russell said: “Lancaster Crown Court is probably the finest court in the whole country and it would be an act of wanton vandalism to close it down and deprive this County Palatine of one of its treasures.”

The Crown Court in Lancaster Castle is the oldest continuous court of its kind in the country, dating back to 1798. Judge Russell, 64, was speaking to a packed courtroom at Preston Crown Court last Friday at the end of his 45-year career in law, the last nine as senior circuit judge.

Tributes were led by Mr Justice Holroyde, presiding judge of the Northern Circuit. Judge Russell estimated that since he became a barrister in 1974 he had addressed at least 25,000 jurors.

Last month, the Courts and Tribunals Service announced proposals to merge Lancaster Magistrates Court and Lancaster County Court, currently based in Mitre House.

The proposal is part of wider closures across the north west, including closures of Kendal Magistrates’ and County Court, West Cumbria Magistrates’ and County Court, and several magistrates and county courts in the Greater Manchester area. The consultation will run until October 8.

Chris Adcock, chief finance officer, Duchy of Lancaster, said: “We would welcome the opportunity to continue our long-standing relationship with the court services, who have operated alongside us at the castle since the buildings were returned to the Duchy in 2011.”

We recognise the very valuable service that these courts provide to the whole of the North West region and acknowledge their historic links with the Castle since the 18th century.”