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Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel to continue to house pop up 'nightingale courts' for another year

Makeshift court rooms in a Kent hotel will continue to be used for another year after the government confirmed the scheme designed to ease the backlog of cases caused by the pandemic would be extended.

Nightingale Courts will carry on being hosted by the Great Danes Mercure hotel, Maidstone, until March next year.

The Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel will continue to host 'nightingale courtrooms' until March next year
The Mercure Maidstone Great Danes Hotel will continue to host 'nightingale courtrooms' until March next year

Courts Minister, James Cartlidge, said: “Nightingale Courts in the south east have proven to be an invaluable asset in our efforts to tackle the impact of the pandemic on the justice system.

"Extending this extra capacity in the areas with higher caseloads will ensure courts can continue getting back up to speed.”

The hotel, just off the M20 near Hollingbourne, has been hosting two courtrooms and is one of a number of venues across the country that will continue to be used to hear court cases.

Latest figures show that in December 2021 the crown court backlog dropped to less than 59,000, a fall of more than 2,000 since its peak in June 2021.

In the magistrates’ courts, the outstanding criminal caseload has dropped by almost 70,000 cases since July 2021.

Nightingale courts have been 'invaluable' during the pandemic
Nightingale courts have been 'invaluable' during the pandemic

Mr Cartlidge added: “Nightingale Courts continue to be a valuable weapon in the fight against the pandemic’s unprecedented impact on our courts providing temporary extra capacity.

"We are beginning to see the backlog drop so victims can get the speedier justice they deserve."

Todays’ announcement builds on the action taken since the start of the pandemic to drive court recovery including:

  • Legislating to double the sentencing powers available to magistrates from six months to a year to free up an estimated 2,000 extra days of crown court sitting time each year.
  • Investing a quarter of a billion pounds to support recovery in the courts in the last financial year – plus more than £50 million for victims and support services.
  • Ensuring there is no limit on the number of sitting days in the crown court this year.
  • Creating two ‘super courtrooms’ which can accommodate up to 12 defendants, increasing capacity for large trials.
  • Opening 3,265 Cloud Video Platform virtual court rooms across all jurisdictions. These currently hold around 13,600 hearings per week using audio and/or video hearings.

Between October 2020 and September 2021, the South East permanent Crown Court estate and Nightingales Courts delivered 16,826 case disposals.

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