Fourteen new ‘Nightingale courts’ are set to open as part of a £113million investment in the legal system.
Today’s announcement by Justice Secretary
Modifications will be made to hotel conference rooms, closed courts and event spaces to allow more trials to take place with effective social distancing.
At Manchester Crown Court, walls will be knocked down to create a ‘super court’ – large enough to house all parties involved in complicated gang murder trials.
Today’s announcement by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland (pictured) will see the total number of emergency courtrooms expanded to 60 by the end of March
Speaking to the Mail, Mr Buckland hailed the ‘shot in the arm for the justice system’, stating more victims will now be able to ‘move on with their lives’. Courts in England and Wales are struggling with a backlog of more than half a million cases, including 53,000 in the crown courts.
Liverpool, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Chichester and Croydon are among those to receive extra courtrooms.
A courtroom will even be opened in London’s Barbican performing arts centre.
The sites will hear mostly non-custodial crown court cases, with trials carrying bigger penalties staying in traditional courtrooms.
The Ministry of Justice is currently carrying out more than 20,000 hearings a week using remote technology.
At Manchester Crown Court (pictured), walls will be knocked down to create a ‘super court’ – large enough to house all parties involved in complicated gang murder trials
This has caused outstanding cases in magistrates’ courts to fall by 50,000 since the summer.
Mr 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.
‘That is why we are investing hundreds of millions to drive this recovery further, deliver swifter justice and support victims.’
The £113million funding package will also pay for staff to man the new courtrooms, as well as the technology needed for remote hearings. Simple on-site safety precautions such as plexiglass, which helps stop the Covid virus spreading between staff, will also be installed.
The move will also provide a cash injection to businesses in the area, helping to ‘save jobs’ in companies hit by the pandemic.
Caroline Bull, chief executive of CCT Venues, who run the Barbican site, said: ‘Although the majority of our traditional business is corporate meetings and events, this has been severely curtailed during the pandemic, so supporting this important project has created a win-win situation.
‘This contract is great for the morale of our team and frankly also for saving jobs. Contributing to such worthwhile projects helps us to feel connected and valuable at a time when many are not so fortunate.’
Last month, the Mail revealed how a high-profile murder trial was postponed until June when the judge contracted coronavirus.
Tips to Find Low Priced Luxury Holiday Package Deals Fast