MOVES by the government to create eight new Nightingale Courts to cope with a massive justice backlog caused by the coronavirus crisis have been welcomed by the Law Society.

At the end of July HM Courts and Tribunals Service estimated that there were 560,000 cases yet to be heard in England and Wales.

The most recent figures available for Bolton Crown Court show that, at the end of March, there were 278 outstanding cases.

Earlier this summer 10 Nightingale courts were set up around the country, the nearest one to Bolton being at Fleetwood, to try and reduce the backlog and now it has been announced that a further eight courts will be created and an additional 1,600 court staff taken on.

“After years of underfunding and cuts, there was already a significant backlog in the criminal courts, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Law Society of England and Wales president Simon Davis.

“Justice is being delayed for victims, witnesses and defendants, who have proceedings hanging over them for months, if not years, with some trials now being listed for 2022.

“We therefore welcome the steps taken to boost court capacity by opening additional Nightingale courts and hope to see them up and running as soon as possible."

The Ministry of Justice has also announced plans to increase custody time limits by 56 days, meaning defendants can be kept on remand for an additional eight weeks.

“It is important that defendants – who may be innocent – are kept on remand for as short a time as possible, and that victims and witnesses are not kept waiting unnecessarily for resolution,” said Mr Davis.