CHESTER is to be home to a new 'Nightingale court' as part of a Ministry of Justice attempt to clear an ever-rising backlog of cases.

The venue is due to open next month, but the location has yet to be confirmed.

Nightingale courts are desperately needed across the UK as the backlog of criminal cases – which was already high before the coronavirus pandemic hit – has now stretched the legal system to breaking point.

However, it has not yet been confirmed what kind of cases will be heard at the new Chester Nightingale court.

Of the nine Nightingale courts currently open in the UK, only three are dealing with criminal cases, with the rest dealing with civil cases, family cases and employment tribunals.

While the Chester area is not as badly affected as some parts of the country, where some courts are listing trials for 2023, defendants and alleged victims can still face a long wait before the case is heard at crown court.

Chester Crown Court is limited in its trial capacity as a jury need to be socially distanced not just throughout the trial, but while they deliberate their verdict.

This has meant only one of Chester Crown Court's four courtrooms is currently suitable to hold jury trials – courtroom 2 – while courtroom 1 is only just as a jury deliberation room.

The Standard has learned courtroom 4 will be adapted by next month to hold limited jury trials, for cases where there is a sole defendant.

Chester Crown Court is also due to hold a number of lengthy trials over the coming months for defendants accused of murder and corporate manslaughter, limiting the number of trials that would otherwise be heard.

Chester Magistrates Court is currently able to hear cases where a defendant enters their plea and can be sentenced, but the court does not have the capacity to hear trials due to social distancing. Defendants instead have to travel to Crewe for their case to be heard in South Cheshire Magistrates Court.

It was announced on Monday that the Lowry Theatre in Salford, plus two hotels in York and Middlesbrough, are to be used as Nightingale courts, along with five others across the UK, including in Chester and Liverpool.