MoJ unevils locations of first 'Nightingale Courts'

The locations of the first ten ‘Nightingale Courts’, created to help the justice system cope with the backlog of cases built up during the coronavirus pandemic, have been unveiled by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Jul 20, 2020
By Tony Thompson

Spanning England and Wales, the temporary courts will hear civil, family and tribunals work as well as non-custodial crime cases. The move will free up room in existing courts to hear other cases, including custodial jury trials, which require cells and secure dock facilities.

Middlesbrough Town Hall, the Knights’ Chamber within the grounds of Peterborough Cathedral, and the MoJ’s headquarters in London are among the venues that will host the so-called Nightingale Courts, and further work is ongoing to identify more locations.

Magistrates’ courts in England and Wales are facing a current backlog of around 480,000 cases. A further 41,000 cases of the most serious crimes are awaiting trial in Crown Courts.

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP said: “Our action to keep the justice system running throughout the pandemic has been globally recognised, with these Nightingale Courts being the latest step in this effort.

“They will help boost capacity across our courts and tribunals – reducing delays and delivering speedier justice for victims. But we won’t stop there. Together with the judiciary, courts staff and legal sector, I am determined that we must pursue every available option to ensure our courts recover as quickly as possible.

“In March 2020, almost half of all courts were closed and jury trials were paused to minimise social interaction between court users. Since then, court staff, legal professionals, and the judiciary have collaborated to prioritise cases and keep the justice system running throughout the lockdown – with up to 90 per cent of all hearings using remote technology during the pandemic.

“These actions have meant that, throughout the lockdown, domestic abuse victims could obtain protection orders, children could be safeguarded, and dangerous suspects dealt with.”

Jury trials resumed in May, and 54 Crown Courts are currently hearing cases.

Last week, the Lord Chancellor set out further measures that are being considered to help ease pressure on the courts system. These include opening courts for longer to increase the number of cases that can be heard safely on any given day, and continuing to use video technology to hear cases where appropriate.

A major £142 million investment across the courts system has been announced to speed up technological improvements and modernise courtrooms.

The confirmed sites are:

  • Former county court at Telford, Shropshire;
  • Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage;
  • Swansea Council Chambers, Swansea;
  • Cloth Hall Court, Leeds;
  • Middlesbrough Town Hall, Teesside;
  • East Pallant House, Chichester;
  • 102 Petty France, London;
  • Prospero House, London;
  • Former magistrates’ court at Fleetwood, Lancashire; and
  • Knights’ Chamber and Visitor Centre, Bishop’s Palace, Peterborough Cathedral.

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