A new ‘super-court’ will open in Loughborough this summer to hear large criminal trials, the justice minister has said. However, the future of 12 Nightingale courts scheduled to close next month remains unknown.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Chris Philp said the government plans to open a Crown court in Loughborough in the late summer to accommodate large multi-hander trials. ‘We are encouraging the judiciary the length and breadth of the kingdom, including in the east midlands, to be forward-leaning in listing,’ he said. Philp did not specify how long the ‘super-court’ would be in operation.
Thirty Nightingale are currently being used, with over half allocated for crimincal cases. However, the Ministry of Justice has revealed that 12 of the existing make-shift courts have hire agreements which are due to expire next month. Responding to a freedom of information request, the government said decisions about Nightingale courts are ongoing and that it remains in close contact with the landlords of all venues.
The Crown court backlog appears to be stabilising at 58,000, according to the latest government figures – up from 39,300 before the pandemic hit. Responding to oral questions, Philp said the outstanding caseload in the Crown court prior to Covid-19 was ‘low by historical standards’.
‘A quarter of a billion pounds has been spent, 1,600 extra staff have been hired and 23,000 extra police are being recruited. There is no complacency here,’ he said.