Thousands more people will benefit from flexible courts, Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green said today as he unveiled a list of dozens of new pilot areas.
Mr Green made the announcement as he visited Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Magistrates’ court, which has been operating extended hours since April and also uses video-links so suspects can appear in court from the prison where they are being held.
Earlier this year the Ministry of Justice began to work with local areas across England and Wales to test whether a more flexible criminal justice system would be better able to respond to the needs of the public, and particularly victims and witnesses. This included courts sitting outside traditional hours during the week, sitting at weekends and increasing the use of video-link technology. The pilots have been agreed locally by criminal justice system partners to ensure that they meet local demands. In total 48 pilots are due to go live in the coming weeks.
Justice Minister Damian Green said:
‘We want the justice system to respond further and more effectively to the needs of victims, witnesses and the local community. I am extremely pleased that thousands more people up and down the country will benefit from flexible courts in their communities.
‘This is one part of our drive to create a swifter, surer and more flexible justice system for all.’
In July this year the Government launched the ‘Swift and Sure Justice’ White Paper which set out plans to modernise criminal justice services, speed up court cases, improve transparency so the public can understand how the system works and engage local communities in dealing with low-level offending. This follows the successful response of the CJS to the disturbances of summer 2011.
Notes to editors
- There will be 48 Flexible CJS pilots across England and Wales.
- There are five Flexible CJS models being piloted:
Extending the operating hours of the magistrates’ courts during the week to hear cases earlier and later in the day;
Maximising the use of Prison to Court Video links (PCVL) which removes the need for a defendant to be transported from prison to court for specific hearings as the hearing can be conducted via video link;
Weekend working to enable courts to open on Saturday and Sundays. There are approximately 100 courts already sit on Saturdays to hear overnight remand cases across England and Wales;
Extending the operating hours of the Virtual Court to enable preliminary hearings in the magistrates’ court held over video link where the defendant is located at the police station beyond traditional working hours;
Introducing a Regional Virtual Court to enable preliminary hearings in the magistrates’ court held over video link to be heard by one court from across a wider area than the current Virtual Courts areas.