Courtroom video link aims to reduce wasted court time

Hastings and Eastbourne web pictures
Hastings and Eastbourne web pictures

Video link technology will allow police officers and vulnerable witnesses to give evidence without attending court.

Justice and Policing Minister Damian Green announced last week that Sussex is one of thirteen areas that will begin using video links during 2013.

The idea is to speed up the process of justice by saving police and court time, and to make it less daunting for vulnerable people to give evidence.

The former magistrates’ court in Haywards Heath had a similar system so defendants in custody could have their initial court hearing without having to be transported from the remand centre.

These ‘virtual courts’ are currently being used by four Criminal Justice Service (CJS) areas - London, Kent, Cheshire and Hertfordshire.

A commencement order, issued on October 8 last year, allows any CJS to adopt this system.

Sussex is one of thirteen areas launching the new scheme.

The others are Avon and Somerset; Cambridgeshire; Staffordshire; Suffolk; Dorset; Northamptonshire; Devon and Cornwall; Wiltshire; North Wales; Gwent; Nottinghamshire; and Derbyshire.

Live links already exist in seven CJS areas.

These are Essex, London, Kent, Cheshire, South Wales, Hertfordshire and West Midlands.

Video links will allow police officers to give evidence in court from the station.

This saves officers having to spend hours or even days in court, waiting to give evidence.

The police witness can stay in the police station (or other police site) while the judge or magistrates, jury, court officers, prosecutor, defence solicitor and defendant are at the court.

Police forces are also expanding the use of video links for witnesses who are vulnerable or may be intimidated, and may have concerns about attending the same court as the defendant.

Kent police have recently installed remote witness links in Ashford and at Bluewater shopping centre, well away from any court buildings.

In South Wales a witness link is operating from a local authority building to Cardiff Magistrates’ Court.

Justice Minister Damian Green said: “We want the justice system to respond more effectively to the needs of victims, witnesses and professionals.

“Video technology is the future and I am extremely pleased that Sussex will be rolling out this technology during 2013.

“This is one part of our drive to create a swifter and more efficient justice system for all.”