New 'super secure court' too small for terror trial

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The Independent Online

Plans to stage a major terror trial in a specially built "super-secure" court in London have been abandoned because the courtroom is too small.

The court was converted earlier this year specifically for the trial of eight Britons accused of conspiracy to murder and plotting to attack major targets in London and New York with "toxic" bombs.

Sources claim that up to £2.5m was spent to create the most secure courtroom in Britain: the chamber at Woolwich Crown Court even has a tunnel leading directly to it from Belmarsh high-security prison next door.

But it soon emerged that Court 1 was unable to accommodate all the lawyers, barristers, media and defendants involved with the case. It is now used for routine hearings. Instead, the forthcoming trial will be held in the larger courtroom next door.

One source said: "When you consider that all eight defendants would have a barrister, a junior and an instructing solicitor, plus all the papers and exhibits, to imagine they could squeeze into the space they've been given is just nuts."

The former home secretary Charles Clarke agreed plans to convert Woolwich, which is in a sparsely populated area on the outskirts of London, into Britain's premier court for terrorism trials, replacing the Old Bailey in the City.

Originally, Court 1 was to be the centrepiece of the refurbished facilities at Woolwich. It was designed so that lawyers, witnesses, journalists and the public would have had to get through three layers of security controls to enter it.

A spokeswoman for the Court Service insisted only £600,000 was spent on refurbishing Court 1, compared to £300,000 on all the other courts, and denied it was refurbished specifically for the trial of the eight men.