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Anger after Nottinghamshire and East Mids denied new courts to help beat covid backlog of thousands of cases

The backlog of cases before Nottinghamshire courts caused by covid-19 is in the thousands yet the county has been excluded from government plans for new temporary courts.

There is believed to be a backlog of just shy of 10,000 cases awaiting conclusion at magistrates' courts in the county and 900 in respect of Nottingham Crown Court.

Nottingham Magistrates Court. (15012261)
Nottingham Magistrates Court. (15012261)

Police and Crime Commissioners from the East Midlands have spoken out after the region was excluded from the plans to ease the covid backlog.

The government has identified ten areas in England and Wales to host new 'Nightingale courts' from next month in a bid to ensure the "wheels of justice keep turning."

Across the East Midlands, the number of outstanding court cases has rocketed, leaving vulnerable victims waiting months - or years - for justice.

Nottingham Crown Court. (26069545)
Nottingham Crown Court. (26069545)

Despite this, the region has missed out on the new emergency support announced by the government and faces a growing crisis.

Nottinghamshire's deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Emma Foody said: "The pandemic has impacted on the criminal justice system across England and Wales exacerbating the backlog that already existed prior to lockdown.

"Restricting help to ten areas is an injustice for thousands of victims and witnesses across England and Wales who face a much longer journey to justice and recovery."

There are 8,500 cases awaiting determination at magistrates' courts in Leicestershire and Rutland and 380 for crown court.

Lord Willy Bach, Leicestershire PCC and chairman of the East Midlands Criminal Justice Board, said: "It is absolutely astonishing that a major region of England and Wales has been ignored completely, as it has so frequently in the past when it comes to governmental support and funding.

"The legal system is bursting at the seams. Locally, we have just as big a backlog per capita as anywhere else yet again we are left to fend for ourselves.

"What kind of message does this send vulnerable victims' who are being denied justice simply because of where they live?

"The pandemic has exacerbated an existing crisis and it will take much more than ten extra courts to undo the damage.

"If the government is serious about delivering 'speedier' justice for victims, and helping the justice system to recover post-coronavirus, then it needs to tackle the whole problem and avoid further delays."

The new courts will hear civil, family and tribunals as well as non-custodial crime cases to free up capacity in crown courts for serious hearings with a jury where cells and secure dock facilities are required.

There is a 6,000 case backlog before Derbyshire magistrates' courts and 380 for the city's crown court.

Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Hardyal Dhindsa, who also chairs Derbyshire's Local Criminal Justice Board, added: "The government has failed to appreciate the scale of the crisis in the East Midlands, as it has many other areas.

"I am particularly disappointed by this news as I have been working very closely with local HMCTS and other CJ partners to identify two premises suitable for use as Nightingale Courts which could be opened up in Derbyshire.Why have they not been considered?"

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