England sets up Covid-safe courtrooms
Venues will cater for large trials so multiple defendants can be safely seated
England has set up a new Covid-secure “super courtroom” to host large trials with multiple defendants, part of a wider scheme to allow more socially distanced trials and speed up justice after pandemic delays.
The super courtroom will be set up at Manchester Crown Court to deal with cases such as gang murder trials, because existing courts do not have space to comply with Covid-19 rules.
In addition, 14 new temporary courtrooms in office buildings and conference venues will be added in other English cities such as London and Birmingham. A Hilton hotel in Manchester will host two hearing spaces.
Britain’s lockdown in spring last year paused jury trials for almost two months before they resumed in England and Wales in May.
“We have achieved an immense amount in our battle to keep justice moving during the pandemic ... These new courts are the latest step in that effort,” said justice minister Robert Buckland in a statement on Wednesday.
The country’s ministry of justice is investing £113m in temporary courts, technology and staff to help get through the backlog of cases. More than 20,000 hearings now take place remotely each week, said the ministry, up from 550 before the pandemic.
For cases that need a courtroom, the 14 new temporary venues named “Nightingale courts” — echoing the name of the Nightingale hospitals set up to cope with Covid-19 patients — will bring the total number to more than 60 by the end of March.
London-based company CCT Venues said it was glad to be working with the ministry to provide space for temporary courtrooms given that its traditional corporate events business has been “severely curtailed during the pandemic”.
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