CHESTER Town Hall's new 'Nightingale court' is up and running.

Two new courtrooms have been set up at the historic Grade II* listed building, and are due to hold jury trials from Monday, October 19.

They will run in addition to the courtrooms at Chester Crown Court.

The new so-called 'Nightingale court' is one of several which have opened up across the UK to deal with the huge backlog of cases, which was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic when all jury trials stopped for several months.

Two of the rooms have been adapted into courtrooms, with a series of test cases held in recent weeks to train court staff.

Courtroom one is the traditional magistrates courtoom, which in recent years had been used for conferences and seminars, but more famously was where ITV's Coronation Street filmed the trial of brothers David Platt and Nick Tilsley in 2019.

Courtroom two has traditionally been the Town Hall's Assembly room, by some way the larger of the two rooms. It was where the Queen and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, had lunch following a visit to Storyhouse in June 2018.

Now The Standard has had an exclusive first look at how the courtrooms will operate, with the first real cases held at the Town Hall on Friday, October 16 since it operated as a magistrates court in 1991.

Honorary Recorder of Chester Judge Steven Everett oversaw two cases in the smaller courtroom one. The first was a defendant appearing from prison via videolink, applying to be released on bail.

The second case was to rule on a male defendant's equivocal plea, where the defendant had pleaded guilty via email to an offence of speeding, before sending an email four days later to change his plea to not guilty.

The court heard the defendant's case had been heard before a magistrate without knowledge of the second email, and he was fined and had three points put on his licence.

As a result, Judge Everett remitted the case back to the magistrates court for the case to be restarted, quashing his sentence, with the defendant able to plead not guilty and have a trial.

From Monday, there are expected to be two jury trials, one for each courtroom at Chester Town Hall.

Both rooms have been laid out to accommodate 12 socially distanced jurors, with courtroom two capable of accommodating cases where there are a number of defendants with separate advocates.

Jury trials have been limited at Chester Crown Court since the onset of the pandemic in March. While trials have been able to take place since the crown court reopened in June, only two of the four courtrooms have the space for a socially distanced jury.

That has meant some defendants who plead not guilty to charges can face up to a year for their case to be heard before a jury.

That is still better than elsewhere in the UK, where it has been reported some defendants, witnesses and complainants face waiting until 2023 for their case to be dealt with.

Chester Town Hall joins the list of venues which have become Nightingale courts, which also include The Lowry in Salford, Middlesborough Town Hall and the Hilton Hotel in York.

Speaking at the announcement of the latest Nightingale courts being unveiled, The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP said: "We are beginning to see positive signs thanks to the hard work of everyone working in our system – with the number of outstanding cases in magistrates’ courts now falling as a result of the measures we have introduced.

"But we must keep going if we are to get our courts back up to speed.

"These additional eight Nightingale Courts will further boost our efforts to increase capacity - reducing delays and delivering speedier justice for all."