The first “super courtroom” to hear gang trials is among 14 new Nightingale Courts announced by the Government to clear a backlog of more than 50,000 cases.
The additional temporary courtrooms, set up in hotels, theatres and conference centres, will help reduce delays and deliver justice for victims, the Government said.
The Manchester Hilton hotel and event spaces in London and Birmingham are among the latest 14 venues to be confirmed dealing with mostly non-custodial Crown Court cases.
And the “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 Barbican in London, Maple House in Birmingham and further courts in Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Croydon and Chichester were also announced on Wednesday.
Hearings in crown courts have slowed due to social distancing measures put in place limiting the numbers in court buildings for lawyers, defendants, witnesses and jurors.
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.”
The move forms part of a £113 million 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.
A further £142 million is being spent to speed up technological improvements and modernise courtrooms.
Outstanding cases in the magistrates’ courts have fallen by more 50,000 since the peak last summer and more than 20,000 hearings using remote technology are taking place each week – compared to around 550 in March 2020 – a 4,000% rise.
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.”
Dominic James, the venues director at etc.venues, which operates Maple House in Birmingham, said: “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.”