New additional Nightingale Courts are to be introduced

23rd February 2021 Business Crime

In order to address the backlog in criminal cases the Government has announced that fourteen new ‘Nightingale courts’ are to be set up in the UK.

A total of 23 Nightingale Courts are now up and running.

The current back log of cases stands at around 50,000. The proposals aim to bring the number of temporary court to 60 by the end of March, at a cost of £113m, the new courts will be used to hear predominantly non-custodial Crown Court cases.

Additionally at Manchester Crown Court a new ‘super court’, will be created to accommodate large gang murder trials and a Nightingale Court will sit at the Hilton in Deansgate, Manchester.

Birmingham, Chichester Wolverhampton, Liverpool, Croydon and Manchester will all receive extra courtrooms. It is also proposed that 2 new hearing rooms will be opened at the Barbican Centre, London.

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, said:

We have achieved an immense amount in our battle to keep justice moving during the pandemic – restarting jury trials before anyone else, turbo-charging the rollout of video technology, bringing magistrates’ backlogs down, and opening more courtrooms for jury trials.

These new courts are the latest step in that effort, and I am determined to minimise delays and ensure justice is served for victims, defendants and the public.

That is why we are investing hundreds of millions to drive this recovery further, deliver swifter justice and support victims”

Responding to the government’s announcement of more temporary courtrooms and a first ‘super courtroom’, Chair of the Bar Council, Derek Sweeting QC said:

“A huge effort is needed to get the current delays and backlogs in the courts back down to acceptable levels, so a super-courtroom and many more Nightingale Courts are certainly steps in the right direction. The Bar Council has been calling for the number of Nightingale Courts to be increased to 60 so it is promising to see the government’s ambition to hit this target by the end of March. But these spaces need to be adequately staffed, testing needs to be widespread and justice needs greater financial support as a whole if we are to come out of this crisis with a system that can withstand knocks and deliver access to justice for the public.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London has been disproportionately affected by the backlog of cases and we are facing unprecedented pressure on our courts. I’ve asked Ministers for the urgent introduction of a large enough courtroom for multi-defendant cases to be heard whilst also maintaining social distancing measures, and an increase to sitting hours in court.

"The Government is simply overlooking the serious pressures the city is facing by not locating a ‘super courtroom’ here in London. Swift prosecution is crucial to achieving effective and efficient justice, keeping the public safe and ensuring public confidence in the criminal justice system.”

The confirmed new Nightingale Court locations are:

Aldersgate House (Barbican), London - 2 additional hearing spaces

Maple House, Birmingham - 3 additional hearing spaces

Manchester Hilton Deansgate - 2 additional hearing spaces

Croydon - 2 additional hearing spaces

Wolverhampton - 2 additional hearing spaces for Crown

Liverpool 1 additional hearing space

Chichester - 2 additional hearing spaces for Crown Court Cases

The Government web site reports that:

Crown Courts continue to prioritise cases of the utmost seriousness, where the safety of the public and individuals is a concern. This includes the judiciary prioritising hearings involving vulnerable victims and witnesses and urgent applications for matters such as domestic violence.

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Phillip Barlow is a Solicitor located in Manchester in our Business Crime & Regulation department

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