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Hannah Gannagé-Stewart

Deputy Editor, Solicitors Journal

Government launches 10 Nightingale Courts

Government launches 10 Nightingale Courts


Lord Chancellor unveils 10 'Nightingale Courts' to tackle backlog of cases

The Lord Chancellor has announced the locations of 10 ‘Nightingale Courts’, which have been set up to tackle the backlog of cases due to covid-19.

The temporary courts will begin hearing cases from next week in the hope they can alleviate pressure on the court system in England and Wales, including civil, family and tribunals work as well as non-custodial crime cases.

The move is hoped to free up room in existing courts to hear other cases, including custodial jury trials, which require cells and secure dock facilities to keep the public, victims and witnesses safe.

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, pledged that the new courts would “help boost capacity across our courts and tribunals - reducing delays and delivering speedier justice for victims”.

He added: “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.”

Additionally, £142m investment has been promised across the courts system to speed up technological improvements and modernise courtrooms.

The Law Society welcomed the Nightingale Courts in a statement this week. However, president of the Law Society Simon Davis hinted at the crisis that existed prior to the covid-19 outbreak.

“After years of underfunding and cuts, there were already significant backlogs across the civil and criminal justice systems. This has been exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic – with the number of outstanding cases standing at over 524,000 late last month,” he said.

“We believe the government can build court capacity to clear the backlog by using unused public buildings – including court buildings which have been closed but have remained unsold – as Nightingale courts. Investing in legal aid for early advice and legal representation would help to nip problems in the bud before they escalate and ensure judicial time is used as efficiently as possible in cases which do go to court.” 

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
  • Knights’ Chamber and Visitor Centre, Bishop’s Palace, Peterborough Cathedral