London gets new Nightingale court as cases backlog races ahead of rest of country

·3-min read
Nightingale court - Thousand Word Media Ltd /Alamy Stock Photo
Nightingale court - Thousand Word Media Ltd /Alamy Stock Photo

A new Nightingale court has been opened in London to combat the capital's cases backlog, which is rising at twice the rate of the rest of the country.

The facility, in Monument, becomes the fifth temporary court in the capital to be used to combat delays caused by Covid.

Between January and March there were 15,446 outstanding cases in London courts – a rise of eight per cent on the previous three months and the highest since 2014, according to Telegraph analysis. The backlog is rising twice as fast as nationally, where it totalled 59,532 – a rise of four per cent in the last three months, Ministry of Justice figures show.

On Tuesday night, experts warned that the backlog in London could be pushed even higher once multi-handed trials – those with multiple defendants, such as county lines criminal gangs – start taking place.

Richard Atkinson, a member of the Law Society's Criminal Law Committee said: "The profile of the work was that during the pandemic, the little work that was done was small, short trials, usually single-defendant trials. So all of the large trials just stayed in the backlog.

"As soon as you put an eight-week trial in one of those courtrooms, you will not have a trial finishing in that courtroom for eight weeks."

London ‘in urgent need of a super court’

It comes after a "super court" was opened in Manchester to put whole organised crime gangs of up to 12 people in the dock.

Sophie Linden, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London, said: "I welcome the addition of a fifth Nightingale court to try and tackle the serious delays in court cases we are seeing up and down the country, but London is in urgent need of a super court.

"I am deeply concerned about the impact of the courts backlog on victims of crime who have been left in limbo and are left struggling to deal with trauma, which is made worse by battling constant court delays."

In March, The Telegraph revealed that Nightingale courts, brought in during lockdown, would be extended after restrictions ended in order to clear the backlog, which has meant serious cases have been pushed back to leave victims facing serious delays to getting justice.

The number of outstanding cases for sexual offences has gone up 67 per cent nationally in a year, and 74 per cent in London.

Before the pandemic, Crown Courts in the capital were getting through up to 477 cases for these crimes in a three-month period. Between April and June last year, courts only completed 60.

Stephanie Boyce, the president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: "While we welcome the new Nightingale court opening, to date no significant inroads have been made into the Crown Court backlog. Some trials are being delayed until 2023, leaving victims, witnesses and defendants disillusioned as they wait to access justice."

Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, said: "The new Monument Nightingale court will provide vital additional courtrooms to give Londoners faster access to justice."

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