Emergency ‘Nightingale’ court to be set up in Stevenage amid coronavirus case backlog

Hertfordshire Development Centre, on Six Hills Way in Stevenage. Picture: Google

Hertfordshire Development Centre, on Six Hills Way in Stevenage. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

A temporary court will be set up in Stevenage to help clear the backlog of cases built up during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hertfordshire Development Centre, in Six Hills Way, will play host to a temporary ‘Nightingale’ court – one of 10 new locations announced by the Ministry of Justice earlier this week.

The so-called ‘Nightingale Courts’ – named after the temporary Nightingale Hospitals set up by the NHS – will help ease pressure on the judicial system which is facing a considerable backlog. Last month, Herts Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd said the justice system was “on the edge of crisis” with a two year wait forecast for St Albans Crown Court.

Stevenage’s Nightingale court will hear non-custodial crime cases as well as tribunals, family and civil matters, and is aiming to become operational in August.

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP said: “Our action to keep the justice system running throughout the pandemic has been globally recognised, with these Nightingale Courts being the latest step in this effort.

“They will help boost capacity across our courts and tribunals – reducing delays and delivering speedier justice for victims.

“But we won’t stop there. 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.”

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In May, measures were put in place to resume jury trials, with 54 Crown Courts set to be hearing jury trials as of next week. More widely, almost all courts are now open to the public again – with over 300 operating this week.

Data released by the Ministry of Justice in June showed that magistrates’ courts faced a backlog of more than 480,000 cases, with the backlog in crown courts standing at about 41,000 cases.

“If matters are not addressed we will get to a point where the whole system grinds to a halt,” Herts PCC David Lloyd said last month.

The 10 confirmed Nightingale Courts are:

• Former county court at Telford, Shropshire

• Hertfordshire Development Centre, Stevenage

• Swansea Council Chambers, Swansea

• Cloth Hall Court, Leeds

• Middlesbrough Town Hall, Teesside

• East Pallant House, Chichester

• 102 Petty France, London

• Prospero House, London

• Former magistrates’ court at Fleetwood, Lancashire

• Knights’ Chamber and Visitor Centre, Bishop’s Palace, Peterborough Cathedral

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