TRIALS at Bolton Crown Court could resume within two weeks says the town's most senior judge.

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic courts around the country were shut for all but the most essential and administrative work.

Since then the Ministry of Justice has put in place measures to ensure some cases, such as sentences and preliminary hearings can go ahead, with barristers and other participants appearing by video conferencing.

Until earlier this month courtrooms at Bolton Crown Court remained shut, with local judges sitting at Manchester Crown Court or Minshull Street Crown Court to hear cases.

Two weeks ago hearings returned to Bolton and now, as the judicial system struggles with finding ways of dealing with a backlog of cases, a limited number of trials are starting to take place, with those where a defendant is on remand in custody, taking priority.

A small number of trials have already taken place at Minshull Street Crown Court and today Bolton Crown Court is to be inspected to ensure it is capable of successfully holding trials.

If given the green light, the Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Martin Walsh, says the building could host its first trial, post-lockdown, on July 13.

"If and when trials recommence at Bolton it is going to be incredibly demanding of court rooms and staff facilities," said Judge Walsh.

"The best that we are likely to be able to do at Bolton is deal with one trial at any one time."

The Blackhorse Street building, which is also home to Bolton Magistrates' Court, usually has the potential to hold trials in all four of its courtrooms at one time. But with the need for social distancing and hygiene, the number of trials will be restricted for the immediate future.

It is proposed to use the largest Court 1 to hold trials, with the smaller Court 2 to be utilised as a jury retiring area and members of the public and media observing proceedings remotely from one of the magistrates' courtrooms. Courts 3 and 4 will continue to hear non-trial cases.

"Mindful of the fact that we will have to have some form of social distancing and appropriate cleaning must take place of the respective parts of the building which will be utilised to ensure that everyone is safe, we're only going to be able to conduct one trial at any one time," said Judge Walsh.

"The courts up and down the country under immense pressure in dealing with trials. I am in constant contact with resident judges throughout the country and the situation which we face here in Bolton is faced by just about every Crown Court venue in England and Wales."