FILE PHOTO: Robert Buckland, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice leaves 10 Downing Street on February 13, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

TO help clear a backlog of hearings caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, 10 temporary ‘Nightingale Courts’ will start function in England and Wales from next week.

They will hear civil, family and tribunals work as well as non-custodial crime cases, and will free 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.

These courts will be set up in Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage, former county court at Telford, Shropshire, Swansea Council Chambers, Cloth Hall Court, Leeds, Middlesbrough Town Hall, Teesside, East Pallant House, Chichester, 102 Petty France,
Prospero House, London, former magistrates’ court at Fleetwood, Lancashire and Knights’ Chamber and Visitor centre, Bishop’s Palace, Peterborough Cathedral.

All new courts will be fully functional in August. The government has also announced £142 million investment to speed up technological improvements and modernise over 100 courtrooms.

“These Nightingale Courts will help boost capacity across our courts and tribunals – reducing delays and delivering speedier justice for victims,” said justice secretary Robert Buckland.

“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.”

In March 2020, almost half of all courts were closed and jury trials were paused due to Covid-19. During the lockdown, 90 per cent of all hearings were held using remote technology.

Measures were put in place to safely resume jury trials in May 2020, and 54 Crown Courts will be hearing jury trials next week. Now, almost all courts are now open to the public again – with over 300 operating this week, an official statement said.

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