Judges' �5,315-a-night St Albans lodgings under review
THE future of luxury four-bedroom lodgings for judges sitting at St Albans Crown Court is in doubt after the courts service admitted it was carrying out a countrywide review of such properties. High Court judges are housed overnight in the house in Ayres
THE future of luxury four-bedroom lodgings for judges sitting at St Albans Crown Court is in doubt after the courts service admitted it was carrying out a countrywide review of such properties.
High Court judges are housed overnight in the house in Ayres End Lane between St Albans and Harpenden, the cost of which has more than trebled in three years.
The upkeep of the house has been priced at �5,315 per night, more than a night's stay in the most expensive suite of The Ritz Hotel in London, which costs �4,500.
The current cost is a rise of more than �3,500 from 2006 when the house was found to cost �1,605 per night and it comes along with a big decline in usage.
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From 2005-6, judges used the lodgings for 134 nights of the year but in 2007-8, the lodgings were used for just 48 nights of the year.
High Court Judges, who are based in London, have to be put up when they are "on circuit" even though St Albans is just a 20-minute train journey from Central London.
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The cost of retaining the Ayres End Lane house and other around the country was criticised by Mark Wallace, campaign director of The Taxpayers' Alliance. He said: "A lot of judges' accommodation is an anachronism based on historic tradition from a time when it was actually quite difficult to get around.
"This is a staggeringly big bill and it's about time this kind of accommodation was reviewed."
A spokesperson for Her Majesty's Court Service said: "HMCS is to review whether these lodgings effectively provide the High Court Judges with a safe, secure and suitable environment, giving them the privacy to work on cases and judgments while ensuring that taxpayers' money is spent effectively.
"The review will examine alternative accommodation such as hotels and serviced apartments."
The new review comes two years after the Department for Constitutional Affairs said it was looking to replace the Ayres End Lane house with rented accommodation.
High Court judges, who earn �172,753 per year, are required to hear the most serious and complex criminal and civil cases close to where the events took place and in the place most convenient for all parties and witnesses involved.
There are currently 31 judges' lodgings in the UK, which cost around �5.5m per year.