Coronavirus: Ten temporary courts to open to help clear backlog

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Ten temporary courts are being set up to help clear a backlog of hearings caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The new venues, in England and Wales, include a medieval chamber and the Ministry of Justice’s headquarters.

From next week, they will hear civil, family and tribunals work as well as non-custodial crime cases.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the new ‘Nightingale Courts’ would help with “reducing delays and delivering speedier justice for victims”.

The introduction of the new courts means there will be more room in current courts for hearings where cells and secure dock facilities are needed, including jury trials where the defendant is in custody.

All 10 will be running next month, with the first court at East Pallant House in Chichester expected to hear cases next week.

The sites are:

  • 102 Petty France, London (the MoJ’s London headquarters)
  • Knights’ Chamber and Visitor Centre, Bishop’s Palace, Peterborough Cathedral
  • Former county court at Telford, Shropshire
  • Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage
  • Swansea Council Chambers, Swansea
  • Cloth Hall Court, a meeting and conference venue in Leeds
  • Middlesbrough Town Hall, Teesside
  • East Pallant House, home of Chichester District Council
  • Prospero House, a meeting and conference venue in London
  • Former magistrates’ court at Fleetwood, Lancashire

Mr Buckland, also the Lord Chancellor, said: “They will help boost capacity across our courts and tribunals – reducing delays and delivering speedier justice for victims.

“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.”

Last month, he warned work to clear a backlog in court cases caused by the coronavirus pandemic could continue into next year.

He said at the time that using public buildings as courtrooms could help reduce the caseload.

Almost half of all courts were closed in March 2020, with jury trials paused to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Some jury trials in England and Wales resumed in May, after almost two months on hold.

Nearly all courts are now open to the public again, with 54 hearing jury trials as of next week.

BBC News