Iconic State Courts building in Havelock Square celebrates 40th anniversary

The State Courts building at No. 1 Havelock Square on June 19, 2014.
The State Courts building at No. 1 Havelock Square on June 19, 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The State Courts' iconic octagonal building in Havelock Square marked its 40th anniversary on Tuesday.

At an event held there to mark the occasion, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who is abroad, sent his greetings in a video message. He said: "I am grateful to the judges, the judicial officers and the staff of the State Courts for the immense contribution they have each made in helping us to deliver a system of justice that is fair, accessible and affordable.

"For the last 40 years, they have done their work in this building and it has become a landmark in Singapore, and achieved conservation status."

Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon, Presiding Judge of the State Courts, attended the celebrations, together with Attorney-General V. K. Rajah, Judge of Appeal Justice Andrew Phang, and Judges and Judicial Commissioners of the Supreme Court.

Former Senior District Judges Michael Khoo and Errol Foenander also attended the event, along with former Registrars, Judges and staff of the State Courts.

The building, which was known as the Subordinate Courts building until March last year, when it was renamed, began operating on Sept 15, 1975 and centralised various courthouses around Singapore.

These included the Criminal District and Magistrates' court which were located in South Bridge Road; the Traffic Courts which were housed in the former Sepoy Lines Police Station in Outram; and the Civil District Courts which operated out of the old Parliament Building and the Supreme Court Building in St Andrew's Road.

Said Judicial Commissioner See: "The Subordinate Courts Building was conceived not just to locate all the courts together but also to provide for a dignified judicial building that reflected the progress that Singapore was undergoing in 1970s.

"Construction began in 1973 to build what the then Minister for Law and National Development Mr E.W. Barker described as "a building of grandeur and dignity," he said.

The State Courts building was among the first 'fireproof' government buildings in Singapore, with a sprinkler system to protect wooden wall panels in the courtrooms.

It also features an environmentally-sensitive design, using natural lighting to illuminate the building's atrium.

The building was also designed to accommodate the movement of judicial officers, court administrators, persons in custody and court users, with segregated routes in certain areas.

It was made to house 26 courtrooms over an area of 30,600 sqm, but with an ever increasing caseload, it saw more courtrooms added over the years. Today, it houses 40 courtrooms and 28 hearing chambers.

The building achieved conservation status on July 10, 2013.

Said Judge See: "This building has become an icon; a landmark symbolising our integral role in the justice system. It has served us well."

A new State Courts Complex is under construction. When it is completed in 2019, the current State Courts building will be retrofitted for the Family Justice Courts to be operate out of the old building in 2023.

The new State Courts Complex, located in front of the current State Courts building, will be thrice as big and will house over 60 courtrooms and more than 50 hearing chambers.