Justice Minister Naomi Long today confirmed that the contract for the Nightingale courts and tribunals venue at Belfast’s International Convention Centre (ICC Belfast) has been extended.
As work continues to reduce the backlog of courts and tribunals cases built up prior to and during the pandemic, the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) has for a second time taken up an option to extend the contract to use ICC Belfast as a COVID-Secure venue, this time for another two months.
As of 21 June, there had been 17 inquests heard by the Coroners Court at the Nightingale venue as well as preliminary hearings, 24 Small Claims Court sittings, three Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal hearings and the Appeals Service had completed 45 sitting days for appeals for benefits decisions.
There have also been five jury empanelment sessions since February and consultation and waiting areas have been available for lawyers and their clients attending Family and Civil proceedings in Laganside or the Royal Courts of Justice.
The venue also hosted in May the delivery of the findings of the Ballymurphy series of inquests, enabling many of the relatives of those who died to attend in person.
Naomi Long said: “Since it opened in January, the Nightingale courts and tribunals venue at ICC Belfast has played an important role in NICTS and the judiciary’s efforts to increase the number of hearings.
“All of these activities have been undertaken in compliance with Covid-safety regulations and, as we continue to address the backlog across a number of court tiers and tribunals, it makes sense to use this facility while it is available."
It is a remarkable achievement to have delivered this level of business despite an ever changing situation. I want commend all of our partners in the justice system for playing their part in ensuring the delivery of justice for citizens and victims of crime continued through these unprecedented times.
"I welcome an asset such as ICC Belfast being put to such an important use during the pandemic. Both I and my officials are very grateful to the leadership team and staff of the ICC Belfast who have not only provided the venue but who have worked very closely and effectively with NICTS staff, the judiciary and the legal profession to provide a safe space for courts and tribunals users.”
ICC Belfast, Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall chief executive Julia Corkey said: “The progress made towards reducing the backlog of cases in a COVID-Secure way has been incredible."
We are pleased to continue our support and have welcomed the opportunity to work collaboratively alongside the NICTS team to ensure operations at the Nightingale Lagan facility run smoothly.
The contract will run until 03 September 2021.