COVID-19: Bolton Wanderers stadium to become Nightingale court

Bolton Wanderers’ stadium will swap referees for judges when it becomes a Nightingale court this week.

Two conference rooms at the University of Bolton Stadium will be transformed into temporary courtrooms to help ease the backlog of cases caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of Justice said.

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They will be able to process non-custodial cases and issue fines and community orders, freeing up nearby courts for jury trials.

Any cases heard at the Nightingale court serious enough to warrant a prison sentence will be sent back to a local crown court for sentencing, officials said.

The two court rooms will be located underneath the Nat Lofthouse Stand and will also help with the club’s finances.

The League Two side have been unable to have fans at matches since the COVID-19 outbreak began last March.

As for legal proceedings, earlier this year inspectors warned of the "unprecedented and very serious court backlogs" suffered as a result of the pandemic.

They claimed that the delays in cases being heard "constitute the greatest risk to criminal justice" in years.

Latest figures show that there were 53,950 crown court cases and 403,568 magistrates’ ones outstanding as of November.

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Bolton is hosting two of 60 Nightingale courtrooms set to be up and running by the end of the month, at a cost of £113m to the government.

Other venues include cathedrals, hotels and theatres.

Courts minister, Lord Wolfson QC, commented: "This new Nightingale court is in the heart of the local community and will help to deliver swifter justice for people across Bolton.

"This innovative approach is already increasing the caseload going through our courts, while pumping much-needed cash into businesses which have taken a financial hit over the last 12 months."

A Bolton Wanderers Football Club spokesperson added: "As a versatile venue which is at the heart of Bolton, we are proud to be once again supporting our local community during what has been a challenging 12 months for all."

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