A JUDGE has criticised the Ministry of Justice for ‘appalling maintenance’ at its courts, after broken air conditioning disrupted a slew of cases in Oxford.

Three courtrooms at Oxford Crown Court have not been sitting this week, as the heatwave saw temperatures rise to 30C inside the building in St Aldates.

Just one courtroom remained in action, but for one trial the jury had to postpone deliberations, saying their room was too hot to concentrate in.

As cases resumed yesterday, despite the problem still not being fixed, Judge Peter Ross said the heat was ‘unbearable.’

Addressing a jury, he said: “If there’s any consolation, it’s that the appalling maintenance by the MoJ of court buildings isn’t limited to this court centre.

“This week, Liverpool has had to close, as have courts in Basildon.

“It is unacceptable. We have wasted four days this week when judges could have been doing work.”

He said the court had raised the issue in May but, despite an engineer being sent out this week, it is yet to be fixed.

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Addressing another trial on Wednesday, Judge Ian Pringle told jurors he had been told the air conditioning should be fixed the following day.

He added: “As I’ve said to you before, I’ll believe that when I feel it.”

In his court, the only one to keep sitting despite the heat, electric fans were set up to keep the jury and defendant cool.

Barristers and judges have been sitting without wigs on, and clerks have been allowed to sit without gowns on.

According to a thermometer in one courtroom yesterday, the temperature had reached 30C.

A HM Courts and Tribunals spokesperson said: “We are sorry for the disruption caused by a fault in the air conditioning system at Oxford Combined Courts.

“Work to fix the issue was scheduled to start this week and will be completed as soon as possible.”

The MoJ said it arranged in advance for ‘portable chillers’ to be available at sites with ‘known cooling problems’.

It added that ‘conventional temporary air conditioning units are unsuitable for use in [Oxford] court,’ however.

It is hoped that an engineer will be able to fix the issue by Monday.