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London Olympics 2012: Almost Half Of Courts To Close During Games

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LONDON OLYMPICS CLOSING COURT
Most criminal courts will aim to reduce operating levels as they try to complete any trials before the opening ceremony on July 27. | PA

Almost half of the courtrooms handling the most serious criminal cases in the capital will be closed down by the Olympics, according to official plans.

Crown courts near key venues and travel hotspots will stop sitting or offer only a reduced service during the Games amid fears of travel chaos for victims, jurors and others getting to and from the courts.

Most criminal courts will aim to reduce operating levels as they try to complete any trials before the opening ceremony on July 27.

Of the 138 courtrooms across London's 11 crown courts, only between 72 and 75 of them (52%-54%) will be sitting during the 17 days of the Olympics, plans seen by the Press Association show.

The new arrangements, which start to come into effect from July 23, will see all crown courts in the capital reduce the number of courtrooms they have available for cases.

Kingston Crown Court will not sit at all when the cycling time trial passes nearby on August 1, and the Royal Courts of Justice will hear only emergency applications on July 30 and 31.

A spokesman for Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) said: "Most of the courts and tribunals in London will be operating normally during the Olympics, and will deal with all urgent applications and cases.

"We have only reduced court and tribunal sittings at those buildings close to Olympic venues and known travel hotspots and are in the process of rescheduling listings to ensure that any displaced work is dealt with either before or in the weeks immediately after the Games.

"We have worked with the police and other partners in developing our Olympic planning and have considered how likely travel disruption might affect users getting to and from courts and tribunals."

The detailed plans show all London's crown courts "will begin to reduce operating levels as trials are completed" in the week beginning July 23.

From the following week until the end of the Games two weeks later, many of the city's courts will reduce the number of courtrooms they operate.

Southwark, near the busy London Bridge Tube and Overground stations, which has been deemed a travel hotspot, will use five of its 14 courts.

Snaresbrook, three miles from the Olympic Park in east London, will use five or six of its 21 courts.

In central London, the Old Bailey will see just nine of its 18 courtrooms used while Woolwich, around nine miles from the Olympic Park, will use six of its 12 courts.

At the Royal Courts of Justice, "jurisdictions will aim to complete trials during the week July 23-27" and the normal summer recess from August 1 "will reduce hearings to a sustainable level".

Magistrates' courts across London will also see significant changes.

Stratford will use just one courtroom, dealing with overnight cases, and planned youth courts will not be held there.

Thames magistrates will also only use one courtroom, dealing with overnight cases and prison video remands.

Westminster magistrates will use five courtrooms, with bail hearings transferred to Hammersmith and its British Transport Police cases at Highbury Corner.

The Greenwich courthouse building will close, with its cases being moved to Bromley and Bexley.

In the family courts, those in Stratford will not operate from Friday July 27, but emergency orders will be heard as required, and Inner London will reduce to three courtrooms.

In the county courts, Woolwich will operate shorter session times and Bow will "use telephone hearings as much as possible to reduce the need for party attendance".

Most tribunals will offer "close to normal summer listing levels".

According to the plans, any sitting days not used during the Olympics "will be utilised before and after the Games to minimise the impact on court delays".

The number of courtrooms running between July 23 and August 12 at London's crown courts are as follows.

Crown court; Number of courts being run during Olympics; Number of courts typically listed on the CourtServe website

:: Blackfriars, 5-6, 9
:: Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey), 9, 18
:: Croydon, 8, 12
:: Harrow, 6, 8
:: Inner London, 6, 10
:: Isleworth, 8, 13
:: Kingston, 8-9, 11
:: Snaresbrook, 5-6, 21
:: Southwark, 5, 14
:: Wood Green, 6, 10
:: Woolwich, 6, 12.