IN THE NEWS

In order to improve efficiency of communication between court staff and the police, court room video link services such as LexVox are being introduced nationwide.

Cheshire Police explains the benefits of these new ‘virtual courts’ for the justice system.

“Video hearings have taken place for defendants remanded in prison awaiting trial for an ongoing period of several years within the Cheshire region.  This virtual option reduces the requirement to transport defendants between prison and court on a regular basis.

Virtual courts have extended this process to the police service by allowing defendants at a police custody suite to appear at a first hearing by video link to a magistrates’ court.

Cheshire is an early National adopter of virtual court systems and the first ‘live’ video hearing took place at the Blacon Custody Suite in November 2012.

Virtual courts increase flexibility, allowing first hearings to take place by video at a later point in the day. This may result in an increase in the number of cases that are dealt with on the day of charge and a reduction in the time from charge to the first hearing.  As a direct result, the number of defendants held in custody suites overnight should be reduced.

Currently police officers and witnesses attend court at 9:30 am on the day of a trial and can wait all day to give evidence. This can sometimes continue over a matter of days, depending on the complexity of the case.  So, in addition to the introduction of virtual courts in Cheshire, work is progressing to introduce ‘Live Links’.   A scheme that will allow our police officers and staff to give evidence in summary trials by video link, reducing officers’ time away from their duties and ultimately maximising personnel resources.

In 70 per cent of Cheshire cases police officer evidence is not challenged by the defense and therefore their appearance in the trial is not necessarily needed. The ability for police witnesses to give evidence from police stations should save time, allowing them to progress paperwork and resume front line duties more quickly.

The initiative will also mean that it will no longer be necessary for our officers to generate paper case files. Officers will start to build more case files on the ATLAS case management system for electronic transmission to the Crown Prosecution Service – meaning we can remove the need for paper files, which currently totals £36k in paper costs alone per year.

Overall, this new way of working offers more advantages than disadvantages. It will speed the resolution of cases for victims, witnesses and defendants, free up police for front line duties, and enable magistrates to hear more cases more quickly.”

We understand that this ongoing modernisation to the justice system has the potential to progress and develop at a fast past.  Consequently, LexVox offer a training programme which runs in parallel with the virtual service itself to ensure that our police officers and police staff are supported and confident to achieve their end result, in a way that allows them to work to maximum effect and vastly improve the expedition of cases.

These changes will allow the justice system to maximise the use of available technology and achieve improved efficiency for everyone involved.

* Stats taken from the www.gov.uk website

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