Royal visit in pictures as Princess Anne marks Sheffield court centre's 25th anniversary
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Princess Anne had been due to visit the Sheffield Combined Courts centre, on West Bar, in March, 2020.
The Covid-19 pandemic put paid to such ceremonies but just one day after Freedom Day her long-awaited visit finally went ahead and she was greeted by judges, barristers, clerks, ushers and security staff.
Her arrival with The Lord Lieutenant among a cortege of vehicles outside the court around 11am, on Tuesday, July 20, was a closely guarded secret to reduce a large crowd in what are still sensitive times as society comes out of pandemic and lockdown restrictions.
Welcomed by The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC, and others including The High Sheriff of South Yorkshire, Martin McKervey, The Recorder of Westminster, Judge Deborah Taylor, and other esteemed judges, Princess Anne was introduced to legal staff, barristers and security officers.
The Royal Party proceeded to Court 2 where a ceremony was held with guests including Lady Justice Kate Thirlwall – Deputy Senior Presiding Judge, The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Gail Smith, and Sheffield’s Master Cutler, and many others who witnessed the event by a video-link.
Judge Richardson said: "The Covid crisis has compelled us to innovate in way that 25 years ago would have been unthinkable – arguably 25 months ago, it would have been unthinkable.”
He added: “This well-built court centre has been able to be adapted and altered to meet all these challenges – and the really tough issue of coping with the administration of justice in a pandemic.”
Court 5 also hosted a mock Section 28 hearing to show how vulnerable witnessess can provide evidence within a more supported environment.
Staff accompanied the Royal Party along the main top-floor concourse for an unveiling ceremony of a plaque marking the 25 years since the building was first opened on May 17, 1996, by the then Right Honourable Lord Peter Taylor of Gosforth, the Lord Chief Justice of England.
Lady Thirlwall said: “Through the pandemic Sheffield Combined Courts Centre has been open for business and that is the result of the heroic efforts of the staff.”
Judge Richardson apologised that the 25th anniversary plaque still reads with a date from March 2020 which will be addressed with an explanatory note but its significance in light of the Covid-19 pandemic was not lost on Her Royal Highness.
Judge Richardson added: “We are fortunate indeed that 25 years and more ago when this building was being planned, it was built to be imposing – albeit modern. The administration of justice needs to be imposing of style and manner. It is a building that commands respect. It is a building that works.”
The former Sheffield Crown Court building, which was also known as Sheffield Old Town Hall, on Waingate, opposite Castle Market, still stands disused following the move to the new law centre on West Bar in the mid 1990s.
Princess Anne said: “Like all new buildings, they do not seem to turn out as they hoped, though this one did do that.”