Fifth Nightingale Court opens in London to tackle caseload backlog

Efforts to deliver speedier justice across London have been stepped up this week after a fifth Nightingale court opened its doors in the capital.

The Monument venue joins other temporary courts located in Southwark, Westminster, Barbican and Croydon – set up to increase capacity and tackle the impact of coronavirus on the criminal justice system. Together they have heard hundreds of cases during the pandemic, helping to minimise delays for victims, witnesses and defendants.

The new site – which usually hosts conferences for international businesses – has two courtrooms and will hear non-custodial jury cases for crimes such as theft and low-level drug possession. 

The court comes equipped with the latest technology rolled out at speed by HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) during the pandemic – meaning defendants can appear remotely by video to avoid any delays to proceedings.

It comes after ministers recently confirmed some 32 Nightingale courtrooms hearing criminal trials up and down the country will have their leases extended to Spring 2022 – continuing to help alleviate pressures on nearby Crown Courts.

"We’re continuing to pull on every lever to ensure the criminal justice system recovers as quickly as possible from the pandemic," said Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab. "The new Nightingale court in Monument is the latest step in this fight, providing vital additional capacity to minimise delays."

The new court forms part of the actions taken to ensure the courts can recover from the pandemic and tackle delays. This includes:

  • opening a super courtroom in Manchester to tackle trials with up to 12 defendants on trial suspected of crimes including, but not limited to, gang-related crime such as county lines drug trafficking, murders, and money laundering
  • modifying a further 71 courtrooms to host trials with three or more defendants
  • setting up Nightingale courtrooms across the country to increase capacity and ensure more trials can be heard – with a commitment to extend 32 Crown courtrooms that deal with criminal trials until March 2022
  • working to reopen an additional 60 existing Crown courtrooms following the lifting of most restrictions – including social distancing - in England and Wales
  • ensuring there is no limit on the number of days that Crown Courts can sit for this year
  • putting in place measures to make over 300 jury trial rooms available to safely run trials
  • hosting more than 20,000 hearings using remote technology each week (across all jurisdictions) 

The impact of these measures is already being seen. England and Wales was among the first major jurisdictions in the world to resume jury trials, the number of outstanding cases has dropped by tens of thousands in the magistrates’ since last summer, while the Crown Courts are dealing with cases at around pre-COVID-19 levels – listing thousands each week.

Also Read