Credit: Clara Molden / PA
A hotel conference room in the Midlands has been fitted with new technology as part of its transformation into the last Nightingale court in the court system.
The M40 J15 in Warwick – named for its location just off the motorway – will soon begin hosting jury trials for burglary and drug offenses. The hotel, which is run by the Marriott chain, is part of a growing network of temporary courts created by the government’s Nightingale program.
The program saw criminal, civil and family hearings held in various locations including hotels, town halls, event venues and even the London headquarters of the Department of Justice.
The initiative is designed to alleviate the increasing pressure on the justice system; The increased use of videoconferencing and audio conferencing also aims to speed up processes.
To that end, the new Warwick facility “is equipped with the latest technology deployed at high speed by the HM Courts and Tribunals Service during the pandemic,” according to the government.
“This means that the parties to the case can appear remotely by video, if necessary, to avoid any delay in the proceedings,” he added.
The M40 J15 becomes Nightingale’s fifth pitch to open in the Midlands, joining facilities in Birmingham, Nottingham, Telford and Wolverhampton.
Courts Minister James Cartlidge said: “The new Warwick Nightingale Court will provide vital additional courtrooms to give people in the Midlands faster access to justice. We have already injected £ 14million into temporary courts across the country to increase capacity and will continue to help the criminal justice system recover from the pandemic, deliver justice faster and support victims. “
Despite this investment, the backlog has snowballed during the pandemic and, according to a report released today by the National Audit Office, it is unlikely to be fully cleared before 2025 at the earliest.
The NAO found that the Justice Department had wanted to open 33 more Nightingale courts in the year 2021/22 – but Her Majesty’s Treasury did not approve the necessary funding.
There are currently 61,000 Crown Court cases received and awaiting hearing; pile-up increased 48% between March 2020 and June 2021, according to the report. A total of 364,000 cases are awaiting hearing by a district court.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented the criminal justice system with an unprecedented challenge. This had an acute impact on the criminal courts, which were already strained in the year leading up to the pandemic, ”said the NAO. “Despite the concerted efforts of the HMCTS and the Department of Justice to increase the capacity of criminal courts quickly and safely, the backlog in Crown courts appears likely to be a pervasive problem beyond 2024. This means that more victims, witnesses and defendants will continue to be seriously affected. . In their recovery work, the ministry and HMCTS cannot afford to lose sight of the impact that the backlog and their recovery program have on court users, especially those who are vulnerable or have historically been victims. discrimination, including ethnic minorities.