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MoJ extends 30 Nightingale courtrooms – but will close 22

By Monidipa Fouzder >>

(3 March 2022)

The Ministry of Justice has announced it is extending 30 Nightingale courtrooms for another year – but closing 22 including four at its own headquarters – as part of continued efforts to bring down the court backlog.

Crown courtrooms at sites such as London’s Prospero House, the Barbican, former courts in Telford, Chichester and Cirencester, and hotels in Maidstone and Wolverhampton, will remain open until March 2023.

Sites that will close at the end of this month include the four family courtrooms at the Ministry of Justice’s headquarters in Petty France, London, and courtrooms at hotels in Nottingham, Warwick, Manchester, Liverpool and Chester. The ministry said these sites are no longer needed because the department has been able to re-open existing courtrooms now that Covid-related social distancing measures have been removed.

Justice minister James Cartlidge said: ‘Nightingale courts continue to be a valuable weapon in the fight against the pandemic’s unprecedented impact on our courts providing temporary extra capacity. Combined with other measures – such as removing the cap on Crown court sitting days, more use of remote hearings, and increasing magistrate sentencing powers – we are beginning to see the backlog drop so victims can get the speedier justice they deserve.’

The government is working towards bringing the Crown court backlog down to 53,000 by March 2025. According to Ministry of Justice figures, the backlog stood at 58,350 in December 2021.

However, figures published by the MoJ and Crown Prosecution vary significantly. Crown Prosecution Service figures for the period covering July to September 2021 show the ‘live Crown court caseload’ standing at 69,843 cases whereas the MoJ’s figures show the ‘outstanding caseload’ as 60,372 in July, 60,757 in August and 60,162 in September.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)