Wollongong court upgrade to cause disruptions

Wollongong Court House is temporarily closed so the building can be improved. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Wollongong Court House is temporarily closed so the building can be improved. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

A $15.5 million refurbishment under way at Wollongong Court House will cause "substantial disruption" over the coming 14 months, Wollongong Law Society president David Potts has predicted.

The landmark building, parts of which are 128 years old, closed on Friday to allow the upgrades to begin.

While that work is done, the city's court cases have been transferred to courts in Port Kembla, Albion Park, Kiama, Campbelltown, Sutherland and Sydney.

Mr Potts expects the arrangements will create "teething problems" such as overcrowding at smaller stand-in sites like Port Kembla, potentially bringing victims of domestic violence within uncomfortable distance of their alleged tormenters.

Courthouses at Albion Park and Kiama did not have the facilities necessary to host people in custody, while the move to out-of-area locations could create headaches for some, especially among low-income earners, Mr Potts said.

"It's going to be difficult for some lawyers to be juggling multiple court cases in different locations on the one day, but my real concern is for people involved in the case - especially those who have to go to Campbelltown," Mr Potts said.

"That's going to be a difficult journey, particularly people who have limited means."

The Law Society last year argued Wollongong Court House should continue operating throughout the refurbishment under a rotation of partial closures.

But the proposal was dismissed after the government found it would cause blowouts to the project budget and timetable.

"From memory they said it would take three years, and would be much more expensive," Mr Potts said. He advises people attending court during the works to double-check where they are supposed to be, and arrive early.

"Failure to turn up in criminal proceedings can result in an [arrest] warrant being issued, and that's not something anybody wants," he said.

The refurbishment will include a new registry, additional interview rooms, new jury deliberation rooms, upgrades to two local courtrooms and a new private entrance for juries and protected witnesses.

Courtroom technology will also be upgraded.

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