Construction ready to proceed in $150 million courts upgradeImpressions of the new four-story courts precinct. Juris Partnership was announced as the government's private partner for the project. Photo: Supplied

Construction ready to proceed in $150 million courts upgrade

Christopher Knaus

Construction of the major $150 million court precinct upgrade is ready to proceed, after the finances of the government’s private partner were given the tick of approval.

The project is the territory’s first attempt at using public-private partnerships to build major pieces of infrastructure, and will be a significant test for its “new path” of procuring large projects.

It will see the ACT Supreme Court revamped and joined with the Magistrates and Childrens courts building to form a modern, four-storey complex that fronts Vernon Circle.

Impressions of the new four-story courts precinct. Juris Partnership was announced as the government's private partner for the project. Photo: Supplied Impressions of the new four-story courts precinct. Juris Partnership was announced as the government’s private partner for the project. Photo: Supplied

The upgrades, particularly in technology, are sorely needed.

The ACT Supreme Court building is vastly out-of-date, and has been the subject of repeated criticism from judicial officers in the past few years.

Frustrations have regularly been vented over problematic video links to remote witness rooms, and difficulties in playing CCTV and pre-recorded evidence.

Impressions of the new four-story courts precinct. Juris Partnership was announced as the government's private partner for the project. Photo: Supplied Impressions of the new four-story courts precinct. Juris Partnership was announced as the government’s private partner for the project. Photo: Supplied

The building has only two courtrooms capable of taking juries, although a third exists in the ACT Magistrates Court building.

The lack of space has caused headaches in juggling juries, particularly with the new system of intensively listing criminal trials in small windows of time.

Attorney-General Simon Corbell has assured that the new courts precinct will solve those problems. It will provide capacity for 22 court rooms, up from the current 17. Eighteen courtrooms will be immediately available upon the project’s completion.

Five of the new courtrooms will be able to accommodate juries.

New IT systems will be installed and regularly updated to avoid the kinds of problems constantly plaguing the court.

Mr Corbell says the new court precinct will meet the ACT’s needs for the next 50 years.

On Thursday, the government announced that the finances with its private partner, a group of firms calling itself the Juris Partnership, had been closed.

The partnership’s finances for the project are now ready, paving the way for construction to start on the project next year.

Mr Corbell welcomed the news in a statement released on Thursday afternoon.

“The ACT government is pleased to see the project’s proponent Juris Partnership moving ahead and meeting these significant milestones,” he said.

“By achieving financial close today, Juris has made a big step toward the start of construction in the first half of next year.”

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