The courts service is seeking to install portable buildings at dozens of sites to provide more space for keeping to social distancing regulations.
In a series of tweets posted today, HM Courts & Tribunals Service confirmed the plans to add the structures to some existing buildings in order to increase capacity.
It was stressed the structures will not be used as courtrooms but will provide temporary space for support facilities such as waiting rooms, retiring rooms and toilets. Site surveys are under way this week at an initial 30 sites and it is hoped the first temporary structures will be in place in the north east region by the end of August.
The measure gives a sense of how difficult it is proving to tackle the case backlog, exacerbated by so many hearings being paused during lockdown, with the existing court estate.
This month, HMCTS will open the 10 so-called Nightingale Courts at various locations across England and Wales, but these are limited to certain types of cases and the number falls well short of the 200 extra buildings that are required to deal with the backlog.
As part of work to ensure more jury trials can run safely, framed plexiglass screens will be installed in more court rooms over the coming weeks. This has been tested in Leeds and checked and supported by Public Health England. Site surveys continue, with more than 100 court rooms in around 50 buildings identified that could benefit.
In the civil courts, work continues to be split between that which must be done and other work which should be done. The most urgent work includes committals, freezing orders, injunctions, all multitrack hearings and homelessness applications.
Meanwhile, HMCTS has confirmed that Wrexham Magistrates’ Court will undergo £5.4m worth of renovations to boost capacity, improve accessibility and allow more trials.
A new two-storey custody suite will be built, along with a lift, by spring 2021 as part of the £142m investment to improve courtrooms across England and Wales.