Barbican conference centre transformed into ad-hoc crown court
- Credit: CCT Venues
Empty conference space in Barbican has been transformed into two temporary courtrooms as part of a plan to try and clear the crown court backlog of over 50,000 cases.
The Ministry of Justice has hired rooms in the five-storey CCT Venues conference centre to create Nightingale Courts for non-custodial jury trials dealing with criminal matters like fines and assault cases.
Nightingale Courts have been set up across the country in hotels, theatres and conference centres to enable more socially-distanced trials and to boost capacity in the justice system during the pandemic.
The new court, next to Barbican Tube station at the corner of Aldersgate Street and Long Lane, is one of 11 extra courtrooms being set up in the capital and forms part of 60 nationwide by the end of the month.
Hearings in crown courts have been delayed due to social distancing measures, which have limited the number of lawyers, defendants, witnesses and jurors in courtrooms.
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Some trials now being listed in 2023 and other cases are in limbo, awaiting a trial date, due to delays in the system.
Judges at the Barbican courtrooms will be seated on a small stage to oversee proceedings, and there will be socially-distanced waiting areas for jurors.
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Courts Minister Chris Philp said: “We have left no stone unturned to keep justice moving in London during the pandemic – accelerating the rollout of video technology, bringing magistrates’ backlogs down, and opening more courtrooms for jury trials."
A spokesperson for the private firm CCT Venues described the move as a "win-win situation".
"Whilst providing court space is not unusual business for us, we are delighted to be working with HM Courts and Tribunals Service," they said.
"The past 10 months have been extremely difficult for the events industry and ongoing restrictions and safety concerns have meant a temporary halt to our traditional business.
"Although our numerous and varied clients are keen to return to live events, it is likely that it will be many more months before we return to the old status quo."