Main court building back in business

10:32 am on 15 December 2011

The main court building in Christchurch will reopen for criminal hearings on Thursday for the first time since the February earthquake.

The Tower building on Durham Street has had structural and geotechnical assessments since March and is deemed safe to reoccupy. One room in the main court building will process criminal hearings.

As time goes on the Ministry of Justice hopes to reopen several more of the 16 courtrooms available. Until then, temporary courts will still be used.

Several temporary courts have been operating at the Christchurch Men's Prison, a marae in Aranui, Riccarton racecourse, Wigram airbase, the central police station and Rangiora District Court until recently.

Hundreds of cases have been transferred back to Christchurch since that building was closed on 1 December due to fears it would not withstand an earthquake.

Custodial cases and overnight arrests are being dealt with in the basement of the central police station.

Law Society Canterbury branch president Allister Davis says travel times between appearances and the lack of facilities have been frustrating. He says there are long delays in getting cases processed.

The Ministry of Justice says that being able to return the service to the central city is a key milestone.

The first jury trial is booked for February.