The sites will hear mostly non-custodial Crown Court cases, with the total number of Nightingale courtrooms set up across the country to enable more socially distanced trials increasing to 60 by the end of March 2021.
Ministers have also confirmed today that a ‘super courtroom’ will be created at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square to deal with so-called ‘multi-hander’ cases, which typically require more space as they involve multiple defendants being tried together – such as gang murder trials.
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.
That is why we are investing hundreds of millions to drive this recovery further, deliver swifter justice and support victims.
The move forms 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. This is on top of the £142m being spent to speed up technological improvements and modernise courtrooms. The impact of these measures is already being seen:
England and Wales is believed to be the first comparable major jurisdiction in the world to resume jury trials, with hundreds now being listed each week
Outstanding cases in the magistrates’ courts have fallen by over 50,000 since the peak last summer
The number of cases resolved in the Crown Courts reached pre-pandemic levels in December 2020, with more courtrooms for jury trials now open than before the pandemic
More than 20,000 hearings using remote technology are taking place each week – compared to around 550 in March 2020 – a 4000% rise.
The decision to keep courts and tribunals open during the pandemic has had a tangible impact on people’s lives. Over 9,000 court orders were issued to protect children from female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and domestic abuse between April and September 2020.
Meanwhile, a major £40m investment announced last month will go towards specialist help for vulnerable victims – funding helplines and the recruitment of more counsellors. This comes as an extra £337m was confirmed in the recent Spending Review to deliver swifter justice and support victims in 2021/22, while £76m will further increase capacity in family courts and tribunals.
Caroline Bull, CEO of CCT Venues, London, said:
We are delighted to be supporting the work of HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) through the provision of space for two temporary Nightingale courtrooms at our CCT Venues-Barbican location. 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.
Dominic James, Venues Director, etc venues who operate Maple House, said:
Our relationship with HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) goes back to the middle of 2020; working in partnership with HMCTS at our Prospero House venue in London, which was the first Nightingale Court to mobilise in early August 2020.
It is testimony to our Maple House venue in Birmingham that it also been selected, to further assist the Ministry of Justice to reduce the backlog of trials, whilst our core business of providing inspiring space for events, meetings and conferences is suppressed.