The total number of ‘Nightingale courtrooms’ that allow the holding of socially distanced trials is to be increased to 60 by the end of March 2021, the Ministry of Justice has forecast.
The MoJ today (17 February) announced an additional 14 temporary courtrooms and a first ‘super courtroom’ in Manchester which will be used to hear complex, ‘multi-hander’ cases such as gang murder trials. Twenty-three Nightingale Courts are already operational.
The Ministry also reported a 4,000% increase in remote hearings, with more than 20,000 hearings using remote technology taking place each week compared to around 550 in March 2020.
Manchester Hilton hotel, and event spaces in London and Birmingham are among the next 14 venues to be confirmed. The sites will hear mostly non-custodial Crown Court cases.
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.”
Buckland said the move formed part of a £113m investment to alleviate pressures on courts and tribunals, including recruiting 1,600 extra staff, further technology, and on-site safety precautions such as plexiglass screens.
The MoJ also said that a rapid testing pilot was being launched in Southwark Crown Court, to determine how the government can test people on their way to a hearing. A rapid testing pilot launched at Manchester Civic Justice Centre in January 2021.