A theatre and two hotels have been converted into ‘Nightingale Courts’ and will begin hearings next week in a further bid to alleviate the pressure on courts and tribunals resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has announced.
The venues are the Lowry Theatre in Salford, Jury’s Inn Middlesbrough, and the Hilton Hotel in York.
A further five sites in Chester, Liverpool, Bristol, Winchester and Cirencester are to be confirmed in the coming weeks, HMCTS said.
In total the new courts will deliver 16 extra courtrooms. They will hear non-custodial crime cases, as well as civil, family and tribunals work.
“The move will free up more room in existing courts to hear other cases, including custodial jury trials, which require cells and secure dock facilities to keep the public, victims and witnesses safe,” HMCTS said.
The new venues bring the total number of Nightingale Courts to 17, providing 32 court rooms.
The initial 10 are currently running at roughly 80% capacity – higher than the average of comparable courts in usual times, HMCTS claimed. One of the original courts is no longer holding hearings.
The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, said: “We are beginning to see positive signs thanks to the hard work of everyone working in our system – with the number of outstanding cases in magistrates’ courts now falling as a result of the measures we have introduced.
“But we must keep going if we are to get our courts back up to speed. These additional eight Nightingale Courts will further boost our efforts to increase capacity - reducing delays and delivering speedier justice for all.”