'Nightingale' courts will hear cases in civic centres and universities
New ‘Nightingale’ courts will hear cases in civic centres and universities as justice system reopens after Covid-19 lockdown
- New ‘Nightingale’ courts will hear legal cases as the justice system reopens
- These will use public spaces to allow traditional courts to manage more work
- It comes as amid an expansion of face-to-face hearings set to roll out this week
- 16 more court and tribunal buildings will be opening across England and Wales
New ‘Nightingale’ courts in public spaces like civic centres and university moot courts will hear legal cases as the justice system reopens.
The move will allow court buildings to manage more work while maintaining social distancing by hosting full hearings or letting victims and witnesses attend remotely, the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts & Tribunals Service announced.
A working group made up of HMCTS officials, the judiciary, legal professional bodies, representatives of victims’ groups and other court users has been established to develop the plans.
It comes as an expansion of face-to-face hearings is set to roll out this week with 16 more court and tribunal buildings opening across England and Wales.
New ‘Nightingale’ courts in public spaces like civic centres and university moot courts will hear legal cases as the justice system reopens (pictured: University of Bristol moot court)
During the coronavirus pandemic 159 HMCTS locations remained open, with an additional 9 opening in the last few weeks.
‘This, together with the significant increase in use of remote audio and video technology, has enabled the justice system to continue functioning in these exceptional circumstances,’ a spokesperson said.
Now 16 more sites spread across the country and across all jurisdictions have been assessed as ‘suitable to hold socially-distanced hearings’.
‘Each building has been individually assessed and will strictly follow public health guidance to ensure the protection and safety of all court users,’ the spokesperson continued.
A further 109 court and tribunal buildings remain closed to the public but open to HM Courts and Tribunal (HMCTS) staff, the judiciary and those from other agencies.
THE 16 COURT AND TRIBUNAL BUILDINGS REOPENING THIS WEEK
As part of an expansion of face-to-face hearings, 16 more court and tribunal buildings are opening across England and Wales this week.
- Romford Magistrates Court, London
- Barnet Civil and Family Centre, London
- Derby Combined Court, Midlands
- Chesterfield Justice Centre (Chesterfield Court House), Midlands
- Mansfield Magistrates and County Court, Midlands
- Bolton Combined Court – Crown only, Northwest
- Southend County Court, South East
- Horsham Law Courts, South East
- Canterbury Combined Court, South East
- Aylesbury Crown Court, South East
- Portsmouth Magistrates Court, South West
- Salisbury Law Courts, South West
- Swindon Magistrates Court, South West
- Newport Crown Court, Wales
- Merthyr Tydfil Combined Court, Wales
- Llandudno Magistrates Court, Wales
Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland said: ‘Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, court staff and the judiciary have worked tirelessly to make sure justice has not stood still and I’m pleased that we are now in a position to reopen more of our buildings.
‘A functioning justice system is one of the hallmarks of a healthy democracy and today’s update will give confidence to people up and down the country that justice can continue to be done in a way that is safe for all court users.’
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Burnett of Maldon said: ‘This is a very welcome step towards reopening all our court buildings. A remarkable volume of work has continued throughout the lockdown, much of it being conducted by judges from home.
‘Reopening all of the court estate, using additional accommodation and continuing to use technology imaginatively will enable us to return to and surpass pre-lockdown volumes, helping manage the growing caseload.’
The Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Ernest Ryder said: ‘All of the Tribunals in the UK are open for business and we have been able to provide an impressive service during the Pandemic by working remotely. The re-opening of tribunal buildings is welcomed.
‘It will allow us to add to that service for those cases which are not best suited to remote methods of hearing, where face to face determination by a tribunal panel is important.
‘We will continue to develop the technology that has been introduced for use in remote hearings and in our buildings and we will use this opportunity to increase the number of panel hearings that take place.’
There are currently 184 court and tribunal buildings open for face-to-face hearings.
These make up 54% of the 341 crown, magistrates, county and family courts and tribunals across England and Wales.
Work has also begun to identify suitable venues for the so-called ‘Nightingale’ courts, which use public spaces, such as civic centres or university moot courts, to allow traditional court buildings to manage more work while maintaining social distancing.
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