Government announces change to available Nightingale Courts
30 courts will be extended until March 2023 to tackle the case backlog – however, 22 will close
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced the use of 30 Nightingale court rooms will be extended until March 2023, as the government continues to try and tackle the current case backlog. However, it also announced 22 court rooms will close.
During the pandemic, sports arenas, hotels and conference centres were transformed into court rooms to provide more space for jury trials when social distancing was in place.
The Nightingale court rooms that will remain open, include:
· Prospero House, London (three Crown court rooms)
· Barbican, London (two Crown court rooms)
· Croydon Jurys Inn, London (two Crown court rooms)
· Mercure Hotel, Maidstone (two Crown court rooms)
· Former court, Chichester (two Crown court rooms)
· Former county court, Telford (three civil and family court rooms)
· Park Hall Hotel, Wolverhampton (two Crown court rooms)
· Maple House, Birmingham (two Crown court rooms and two civil family and/or tribunal court rooms)
· Former Magistrates court, Fleetwood (two civil and family court rooms)
· Cloth Hall court, Leeds (three Crown court rooms)
· Civic Centre, Swansea (one Crown court room)
· Former Magistrates’ court, Cirencester (one Crown court room, one magistrates' rooms).
The government said negotiations to secure a new two-courtroom venue in London to replace the Nightingale Court at Monument are ongoing.
The sites set to close, include:
· 102 Petty France, London (four family court rooms)
· Monument, London (two Crown court rooms)
· Jury’s Inn Hotel, Middlesbrough (two civil and family court rooms)
· Knights’ chamber and visitor Centre, Peterborough (one Crown court room)
· Mercure Hotel, Nottingham (two Crown court rooms)
· M40 J15 Warwick Hotel, Warwick (two Crown court rooms)
· Hilton Hotel, Manchester (two Crown court rooms)
· Hilton Hotel, Liverpool (one Crown court room)
· University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton (one Crown court room)
· Crowne Plaza, Chester (two Crown court rooms)
· The Guildhall, Winchester (three civil family and/or tribunal court rooms)
Justice Minister, James Cartlidge, said: “Nightingale Courts continue to be a valuable weapon in the fight against the pandemic’s unprecedented impact on our courts providing temporary extra capacity.
“Combined with other measures – such as removing the cap on Crown Court sitting days, more use of remote hearings, and increasing magistrate sentencing powers – we are beginning to see the backlog drop so victims can get the speedier justice they deserve”.
Other steps taken by the government to try and tackle the case backlog include: doubling the sentencing powers available to magistrates from 6 months to a year; lifting the limit on the number of sitting days in the Crown Court; the creation of two ‘super courtrooms’ which can accommodate up to 12 defendants; increasing capacity for large trials and opening 3,265 Cloud Video Platform virtual court rooms across all jurisdictions, which hold around 13,600 hearings per week using audio and/or video hearings. It also said it plans to hire 1,100 new judges this year to further boost its efforts to increase capacity and tackle the backlog.
The government claims the impact of the measures is now being seen. It said the latest quarterly civil justice statistics show that in December 2021 the crown court backlog dropped to under 59,000 – a fall of over 2,000 since its peak in June 2021 – and that in the magistrates’ courts, the outstanding criminal caseload has dropped by almost 70,000 cases since its peak in July 2021. However, the figures also suggest that the caseload backlog has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.