Press release

Hertfordshire's first virtual court

Victims and witnesses in Hertfordshire are benefiting from swift and effective court hearings thanks to the region’s first virtual court.

The new virtual court at Hatfield Remand Court allows a defendant, charged in Watford’s police station, to have their first hearing held over secure video link from the Magistrates’ court, often within hours of being charged. Twenty cases have been dealt with since the virtual court went live last month with many offenders sentenced at the first hearing via the virtual link. Offences dealt with have included theft, assault, breach of a restraining order and driving whilst disqualified.   

Virtual courts are designed to avoid delays for victims and witnesses and to ensure crimes are dealt with more quickly and effectively. The same equipment is used for police officers providing evidence at court from the police station.

The virtual court is the second court in Hertfordshire that is using video links to make the Criminal Justice System more efficient. Since last summer Hatfield police station has been linked to St Albans Magistrates’ court to enable police officers to provide evidence at court from the police station - a process known as Live Links.

Courts Minister, Jonathan Djanogly said:

‘The first virtual court in Hertfordshire 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.’

Bench Chairman, Cathy Kerby said:

‘Hertfordshire Magistrates welcome virtual courts as an innovative aid to streamlining the delivery of justice, and making case management in our courts swifter and more effective, to the benefit of all involved.’

Hertfordshire Chief Constable Andy Bliss, who chairs the county’s Criminal Justice Board added:

‘This service has benefits to all agencies in Hertfordshire has been developed against a backdrop of positive partnership working. It is hoped that the advent of virtual courts will mean that justice is delivered more swiftly.’

Virtual courts are part of a wider policy to digitalise, streamline and make the Criminal Justice system more efficient.  By the end of 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.  

Notes to Editors:

  1. Virtual courts and Live Links provide the building blocks for further reform and enable the Criminal Justice System agencies to modernise the way its core business is delivered: by sharing information more effectively, reducing the number of times information has to be asked for and reducing the physical movement of people required to enable cases to proceed.
     
  2. The virtual courts initiative began in May 2009 in London (Camberwell Green) and Kent (Medway) and has now been extended to other locations in these areas as well as Cheshire and Hertfordshire.
     
  3. For more information please call the Ministry of Justice Press Office on 0203 334 3536. Follow us on twitter @MoJGovUK.

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