A NIGHTINGALE court is to open at the Bolton Whites Hotel at Middlebrook in a bid to ease the criminal trials backlog.

Final preparations are under way for conference rooms at the hotel, situated at the University of Bolton Stadium, to be converted into courtrooms.

Once open, instead of business meetings and other functions, the rooms will host judges and barristers trying cases where defendants are not already remanded in custody and so a secure dock is not required.

The venue is the third Nightingale court to be established in Greater Manchester, following the Lowry Theatre in Salford and the Hilton Hotel in Deansgate, Manchester.

The Ministry of Justice says that by the end of this month it hopes to have 60 Nightingale courts operating around the country.

The Bolton Whites hotel, like thousands of other hospitality venues around the country, has suffered under lockdown from the loss of bookings.

The latest use for the building has been welcomed by Bolton West MP Chris Green.

“I’m really pleased the Nightingale Court is opening at Middlebrook,” he said.

“When hotels are not seeing guests it is great that we are using local assets.”

However he said he remains concerned about the general approach to lockdown which he says has had a devastating effect.

“Access to justice has been undermined with delays in cases of up to four years,” he said, adding that it is just one area of society which has been badly affected by the pandemic response, including education, employment and health.

Nightingale courts have been set up due to the need for social distancing inside buildings because of the coronavirus pandemic and to try and ease the backlog due to courts stopping hearing most cases when the first lockdown was introduced.

Since then the court service has turned increasingly to using technology, with many legal professionals, as well as defendants and others, appearing in court remotely though the use of specialised video conferencing.

Next month magistrates’ cases normally held at the combined court court in Blackhorse Street will be temporarily moved to Wigan Magistrates' Court to make room for Crown Court trials involving multiple defendants to take place.