We’ve seen increasing references to the terms ‘nightingale courts’ and ‘super courts’ recently by business and legal press publications, but what are they and what do they actually mean for those who the courts exist for – the clients and litigants?
Response to COVID-19 Impact
The current pandemic, and the associated lockdown, has caused a significant backlog in the Courts.
On 17th February 2021 it was announced that 14 temporary courtrooms had been established, as well as a ‘super courtroom’, to speed up the justice process. This announcement follows as part of a £113m investment to alleviate the pressures on courts and tribunals as well as increased recruitment efforts.
Moreover, there has been a reported 4000% increase in the number of remote hearings taking place now in comparison to before the pandemic in order to keep the process moving as much as possible during lockdown.
Nightingale Courts vs Super Courts
The term ‘Nightingale Court’ arose following the emergence of the similarly named Nightingale Hospitals. Florence Nightingale, who is regarded as the founder of modern nursing, was renowned for her work in temporary, field hospitals, particularly during the Crimean War of the 1850s. The term ‘Nightingale Hospitals’ was then used during the COVID-19 pandemic, to refer to temporary ‘field hospitals’ outside of the existing NHS real estate. The Courts then borrowed the name.
Due to the backlog caused by the pandemic, the Ministry of Justice decided that other venues could be repurposed for use in court hearings. In and around Manchester, the Nightingale Courts include the Lowry Theatre and the Hilton Hotel.
The talk of a ‘Super court’, however, is much less exciting. A Super court has been introduced for the first time in Manchester, which consists of a big courtroom in Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square. Within the court are presently several smaller courtrooms; the size of the Super court is necessary to enable big multi-party criminal trials to take place while maintaining social distancing.
Preparing for Litigation Proceedings
For those involved in civil, rather than criminal disputes, the use of video technology is more likely to be the solution in the short term. If you are just starting proceedings, I would anticipate that your case will be listed in person, but this is not certain.
When starting litigation proceedings, you should always be prepared – but not determined – to go to court, even though settling is often the outcome that both sides desire. Furthermore, it is important to be aware that if the case goes to court, you may still be expected to attend in person as the introduction of the Nightingale Courts means that more hearings can take place despite the pandemic.