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Games to shut half of crown courts

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 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.

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