A CITY’S court rooms are to be brought back into use as the government tries to clear a backlog of criminal cases.

Chichester Crown Court was closed in December 2018 and has effectively been mothballed since then.

Court hearings were kept in the city, with the district council stepping in to provide room for family law cases.

The closure sparked protests and a campaign to save the court building in Southgate in the city centre.

It was led by lawyer Edward Cooke and the city’s MP Gillian Keegan, but criminal cases in West Sussex had been moved to Portsmouth Crown Court instead.

Now, the government has announced two court rooms at the site will be used to hear crown court matters.

It is part of a £113 million scheme to cut the huge backlog of cases which had built up even before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Jury trials in Sussex were suspended from the end of March 2020 until they were able to resume in September 2020, with the most serious cases being given priority.

Previously Hove and Portslade MP Peter Kyle, who is a shadow minister for justice, criticised the government for letting down victims over the lengthy backlog of cases.

In court last week, Her Honour Judge Christine Henson QC said the plans at Chichester had been welcomed by lawyers in Sussex.

She said the crown court there is within easy walking distance of the railway station for transport.

It is understood that the courts could be up and running by next month.

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, said: “We have achieved an immense amount in our battle to keep justice moving during the pandemic – restarting jury trials before anyone else, turbo-charging the rollout of video technology, bringing magistrates’ backlogs down, and opening more courtrooms for jury trials.

“These new courts are the latest step in that effort, and I am determined to minimise delays and ensure justice is served for victims, defendants and the public.

“That is why we are investing hundreds of millions to drive this recovery further, deliver swifter justice and support victims.”

Manchester Hilton hotel, and event spaces in London and Birmingham are among the next 14 venues that will be transformed into so-called "Nightingale courts".

The schemed aims to speed up the justice system and will also boost hotels and venues currently closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ministers also confirmed that a "super courtroom" will be created at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square to deal with so-called "multi-hander" cases, which typically require more space as they involve multiple defendants being tried together – such as gang murder trials.