NI: Crown Court capacity to be boosted with additional courtrooms

NI: Crown Court capacity to be boosted with additional courtrooms

An additional courtroom will become available for Crown Court trials in the Laganside Courts this week as the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) tries to boost capacity in the face of a growing trials backlog.

Two courtrooms in the complex are being modified to allow for trials to take place during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the first becoming operational this week and the second expected to be operational in early March.

Three further jury courtrooms will become operational in Antrim, Dungannon and Newry in early April, bringing the total across Northern Ireland to 13 jury trial courtrooms.

“That exceeds the average number of trials held at any one time pre-Covid,” Justice Minister Naomi Long told MLAs yesterday.

She said: “The Crown Court deals with some of the most serious and sensitive cases in the justice system, and, therefore, it is vital that justice is dealt with in a timely way. Speeding up justice is one of the biggest challenges facing the justice system and is a priority for the Department, criminal justice partners and the Criminal Justice Board.”

Asked about financial support for solicitors and barristers, Mrs Long said: “With courts now sitting more normally and business being conducted remotely and in other ways, payments to the legal profession should now be resolved in that practitioners should be able to undertake the majority of their normal work.

“A sharp uptick in some kinds of work has been noted, in solicitors’ offices in particular — for example, people intending to move house who had saved up additional money during the Covid crisis and had decided to make that move.”

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