UK venue as pop-up court to clear cases

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Deepdale stadium becomes court during covid Image: Preston North End

Preston North End’s Deepdale Stadium (UK) is being used as a Nightingale Court by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to help clear cases piling up due to COVID-19.

‘BBC News’ stated that the Invincibles Pavilion and Sir Tom Finney Stand of the stadium are hosting non-custodial criminal cases.

The 23,404-capacity Deepdale Stadium is a football stadium in the Deepdale area of Preston, England (UK), the home of Preston North End F.C. Deepdale is “widely recognized as being the oldest ‘continuously used’ football stadium in the world. But, like most coveted historic accolades, it is fiercely contested”.

Coronavirus has forced a football stadium to become a temporary court to help clear a backlog of cases.

The Preston North End Football Club is a professional football club in Preston, Lancashire, whose first team currently plays in the English Football League (EFL) Championship, the second tier of the English football league system. Originally a cricket club, Preston has been based at Deepdale Stadium since 1875.

Nightingale Court is a nickname given to a temporary court in England and Wales established to deal with the backlog of legal cases brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘BBC News’ further stated that the club said it was good to “have an activity” at the stadium after its “limited use” last year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus curse.

The pop-up courts will free up space for more jury trials at Preston Crown Court, the MoJ said.

The pop-up courts could be established in local council buildings, libraries, community centers or even schools and universities. They would be staffed by traveling judges or tribunals who set up in convenient locations outside traditional court houses.

Cases heard at the stadium will mainly include fines and community service orders.

Courts Minister, Lord Wolfson QC, said the Government was “determined to deliver swift justice”.

A Preston North End spokesperson noted, “Given that there has been very limited use of the stadium in the last year or so, it is good to have an activity such as the courts running from the premises and making good use of what is an iconic building.”

The 28,723-capacity University of Bolton Stadium in Horwich, England, home of the League Two club Bolton Wanderers, also served as a temporary court on March 29th this year.

The ‘Lancashire Post’ stated that two courtrooms will be opening in the conferencing suites of the stadium.

They will host non-custodial criminal cases and be able to issue fines and community service orders, freeing up the City’s combined court center for more jury trials. Any cases deemed serious enough for time in prison will be sent back to a Crown Court for sentencing.

The ‘Lancashire Post’ quoted the Courts Minister, Lord Wolfson QC, as stating, “We are determined to deliver swifter justice for people across Preston and this new Nightingale Court will boost those efforts. This is part of our action to tackle the impact of the pandemic on our courts and reduce delays for victims. As a result, the number of outstanding cases in the magistrates’ is falling and the number of trials being listed in the Crown Court increases each week.”

The above move is part of a £113m Government investment to support courts and tribunals during COVID-19 which battered the United Kingdom but with vaccination rollout the situation is turning for the better.

It includes recruiting 1,600 extra staff, investment in further technology and onsite safety precautions such as plexiglass screens. This is on top of the £142m being spent to expedite technological improvements and lend avant-garde looks to courtrooms. The impact of these measures is already being seen: Nationwide, outstanding cases in the magistrates’ courts have fallen by around 50,000 since the peak last summer. While the number of disposals continues to be just under pre-COVID levels, the Crown Court continues to see an increase in the number of trials listed. More than 20,000 hearings using remote technology are taking place each week.

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