COURT cases involving prisoners from Bolton and Bury are being disrupted after an outbreak of coronavirus at Forest Bank prison.

At the end of last week five wings at the jail were put on a 28 days lockdown after positive tests for the virus among a number of staff and inmates.

This means that prisoners due to appear in court cannot be moved out of the affected wings and transported to Bolton Crown Court or the courts in Manchester for their hearings.

And the restrictions have also resulted in virtual hearings to the courts not going ahead as inmates cannot be taken to the video link suite inside the prison.

At least one serious trial has been delayed due to the outbreak and several plea hearings and sentences have had to be adjourned to future dates.

The majority of serving and remand prisoners from Bolton and Bury are held at Forest Bank, a privately run Category B men's prison at Agecroft operated by Sodexo. The jail has the capacity to hold 1,460 prisoners.

A spokesperson for HMP Forest Bank said: “A small number of staff and prisoners on five of the sixteen wings within Forest Bank recently tested positive for COVID-19.

"The current situation is well controlled and under constant review.

"We continue to liaise with Public Health England and the local authority to limit transmission of the infection and keep staff and prisoners safe.”

The problems at the prison come as an outbreak of Covid-19 has also been confirmed at the high security HMP Manchester, formerly known as Strangeways.

And it is at a time when the Ministry of Justice is opening additional Nightingale courts to try and ease the backlog of cases brought on by pandemic restrictions.

In addition to the crown courts at Bolton, Manchester Crown Square and Manchester Minshull Street, the region now has temporary courts at The Lowry and the Hilton Hotel in Manchester.