Press release

Digital technology delivers more swift and effective justice

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

More victims and witnesses are benefiting from swift and effective court hearings thanks to virtual courts and live links technology.

Justice Ministers Nick Herbert and Jonathan Djanogly witnessed first hand, the video-technology in action when they visited a police station in North Kent and a virtual court in Chester today.

Virtual courts allow a defendant, charged in a police station, to have their first hearing held over secure video link from the magistrates’ court. This can happen within hours of being charged and if the defendant pleads guilty, the court can often sentence on the same day.

The same equipment allows police witnesses to give evidence in court via the police station, an initiative known as ‘Live Links’, freeing up time to carry out frontline duties rather than travelling to and from court.
 
Nick Herbert, Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, said:

‘Live links are a key factor in making the criminal justice system in England and Wales more efficient - to enable justice agencies to work together to reduce waste and bureaucracy and provide a more integrated service.

‘Live links frees up valuable police time and resources to carry out their frontline duties and ensure crimes are dealt with more quickly and effectively. This is important not only for the local police force but for victims and witnesses.’
 
Courts Minister Jonathan Djanogly said:

‘The expansion of virtual courts clearly demonstrates the Government’s commitment to working with local police and the courts to ensure speedy and effective justice.

‘Not only do they enable the quick resolution of cases they also save time as defendants do not need to be transferred between prison and the court.’

The virtual courts initiative began in May 2009 in London (Camberwell Green) and Kent (Medway) and is now being extended this month to other locations in these areas as well as to Cheshire and Hertfordshire. Live links, which is currently in use in Kent, London and Hertfordshire is quickly expanding to other police force areas with Cheshire being the next area to implement the initiative.

The initiatives form part of a wider policy to digitalise, streamline and make the criminal justice system more efficient. By spring 2012, the entire criminal justice system is required to go digital, with secure electronic transfer of case files between the police, prosecutors and courts becoming the norm rather than the exception. In excess of 1400 people have appeared using the virtual court system in Kent. Live links was introduced in July and in the first 24 cases, more than 100 hours of police time have been saved.

Notes to editors:

  1. Virtual court technology began in Kent and London in 2009. It is currently in use on Kent (Medway and Folkestone), London (Camberwell Green) and Cheshire (Chester) and will shortly be introduced into Hertfordshire.
  2. The system speeds up first hearings in a number of ways; time is saved by not having to physically transfer a defendant between the police station and court and hearings are often held within hours of charge. Virtual courts are also supported by electronic case file sharing between agencies.
  3. Live links are a way for police officers to give evidence at magistrates’ court over a secure video link from the police station and scope exists to expand this system to include other types of witnesses such as experts and civilian witnesses.
  4. Live links and virtual courts are part of a wider policy to digitalise, streamline and make the criminal justice system more efficient.
  5. By spring 2012, the entire criminal justice system is required to go digital, with secure electronic transfer of case files between the police, prosecutors and courts becoming the norm rather than the exception.
  6. For more information please call the Ministry of Justice Press Office on 0203 334 3536.