Extension of Nightingale Courts to support restoration of justice

  • 30 room extension of Nightingale Court
  • It builds on a series of measures to speed up justice for victims after the unprecedented impact of the pandemic
  • The backlog is already starting to decrease at the Crown Court thanks to the efforts made so far

During the pandemic, sports arenas, hotels and conference centers were quickly transformed into courtrooms to provide more space for jury trials when social distancing was in place. The continued use of some of these Nightingale Courts in areas such as the South East, London and the Midlands will help support court recovery and reduce delays.

Justice Minister James Cartlidge said:

The Nightingale Courts continue to be a valuable weapon in the fight against the unprecedented impact of the pandemic on our courts by providing temporary additional capacity.

Combined with other measures – such as the removal of the cap on Crown Court sitting days, increased use of remote hearings and increased sentencing powers for magistrates – we are beginning to see the backlog decrease so that victims can get the faster justice they deserve.

Today’s announcement (March 3, 2022) builds on the significant steps taken since the start of the pandemic to support the recovery of the courts, including:

  • Legislate to double the sentencing powers available to magistrates from 6 months to a year to free up around 2,000 extra days of Crown Court sitting time each year.
  • Investing a quarter of a billion pounds to support the Courts’ recovery in the last financial year, plus over £50 million for victims and support services.
  • Ensure there is no limit to the number of sitting days at the Crown Court this year.
  • Creation of 2 “super courtrooms” that can accommodate up to 12 defendants; increased capacity for large trials.
  • Opened 3,265 Cloud Video Platform virtual courtrooms in all jurisdictions. These currently hold approximately 13,600 hearings per week using audio and/or video hearings.

The impact of these measures, alongside the reopening of 60 Crown courtrooms since the peak of the virus, is already visible. The latest figures show that in December 2021 the Crown Court backlog fell to less than 59,000. This is a drop of over 2,000 since its peak in June 2021. Meanwhile, in magistrates’ courts, the number of pending criminal cases has fallen by almost 70,000 cases since its peak in July 2021.

In places like the North West where the backlog of cases has dropped significantly in recent months, the majority of temporary courts are no longer needed and will come to an end at the end of March 2021.

Following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, courtroom capacity has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Notes to editors

  • The sites will remain open until March next year. The locations are as follows:
    • Prospero House, London (three Crown courtrooms)
    • Barbican, London (two Crown courtrooms)
    • Croydon Jurys Inn, London (two Crown Court rooms)
    • Mercure Hotel, Maidstone (two Crown Court rooms)
    • Old Court, Chichester (two Crown courtrooms)
    • Old County Court, Telford (three civil and family courtrooms)
    • Park Hall Hotel, Wolverhampton (two Crown courtrooms)
    • Maple House, Birmingham (two Crown Courtrooms and two Civil Family and/or Court Courtrooms)
    • Old Magistrates’ Court, Fleetwood (two civil and family courtrooms)
    • Cloth Hall court, Leeds (three Crown courtrooms)
    • Civic Centre, Swansea (a Crown Court room)
    • Old Magistrates’ Court, Cirencester (one Crown Court room, one Magistrates’ room)
    • Negotiations to secure a new two courtroom venue in London to replace the Nightingale at Monument are ongoing
  • Venues closing as planned are not needed as HMCTS has reopened existing courtrooms as social distancing measures have eased. We now have enough rooms in these areas for all available Crown Court judges. We are hiring 1,100 new judges this year to bolster our capacity building and backlog reduction efforts.
    • 102 Petty France, London (four family courtrooms)
    • Monument, London (two rooms of the Crown Court)
    • Jury’s Inn Hotel, Middlesbrough (two civil and family courtrooms)
    • Knights’ Chamber and Visitor Centre, Peterborough (a Crown Court room)
    • Mercure Hotel, Nottingham (two Crown Court rooms)
    • M40 J15 Warwick Hotel, Warwick (two Crown courtrooms)
    • Hilton Hotel, Manchester (two Crown Court rooms)
    • Hilton Hotel, Liverpool (a Crown Court room)
    • University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton (a Crown courtroom)
    • Crowne Plaza, Chester (two Crown courtrooms)
    • The Guildhall, Winchester (three family and/or court civil courtrooms)
  • 470 existing courtrooms are now open
  • Our latest arrears statistics are available on GOV.UK: www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/hmcts-management-information-december-2021
  • More information on the increased powers to tackle magistrates can be found on GOV.UK: www.gov.uk/government/news/magistrates-courts-given-more-power-to-tackle-backlog

Posted on March 3, 2022

Last updated March 3, 2022 + view all updates

  1. First publication.