Nightingale Courts rolled out in Bristol and Chester
Two new courts have started hearing cases this week
Two new Nightingale Courts have been set up temporarily at the Bristol Law Society and Chester Town Hall.
They will free up rooms in nearby crown courts with the aim of enabling more cases to be heard and delivering quicker justice for victims.
It brings the total number of Nightingale Courts, set up nationwide to alleviate pressure on courts and tribunals resulting from the pandemic, to 14. A further three are due to open later this month, in total providing an additional 22 courtrooms.
Meanwhile, portable jury rooms have been installed at courts across Yorkshire to unlock even more capacity. The Portakabin buildings erected at Bradford, Hull, and Leeds Crown Courts will be used for jurors to deliberate and will allow eight courtrooms to resume hearing trials.
Crucially, the portable facilities provide sufficient space for two-metre social distancing between jurors and come equipped with Plexiglass screens as well as hand sanitation stations, to help stop the spread of covid-19.
The temporary rooms will be installed at further courts across the country in the coming months.
Justice Minister Chris Philp said: “These additional facilities will help to boost the capacity of these courts – reducing delays and ensuring speedier justice for all.
“This is the latest step in our plan to work with the judiciary and legal sector in pursuing every available option to ensure our courts recover as quickly as possible.”
The extra courts follow an £80m investment in the courts system to meet the unprecedented challenge presented by the pandemic.
The money is intended to fund the employment of 1,600 new staff to support the recovery, with more temporary Nightingale Courts and technology to boost capacity.
According to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) the measures are starting to pay off, with magistrate courts seeing the number of outstanding cases drop.
The MoJ reported this week that crown courts are currently holding over 100 jury trials, and clear over 1,700 cases a week, while 250 crown court rooms will be available for jury trials by the end of October.
Meanwhile, a £153m investment across the courts system announced in July has been pledged to speed up technological improvements and modernise courtrooms.