Court video links to save police hours and protect witnesses
Court appearances in Devon and Cornwall can now take place using video conferencing technology in a further sign that the justice system is moving away from traditional courthouses.
The two counties have been selected with a further 13 areas to use video-link technology in 2013, allowing police officers and vulnerable or intimidated witnesses to give evidence from elsewhere. A "considerable" amount of time and money is wasted under existing practices by police officers travelling to and from court and waiting to give evidence, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.
About 140 courts were closed in the last two years under the Government's court estate reform programme and last year alone there were 75,000 video appearances.
Justice Minister Damian Green said: "We want the justice system to respond more effectively to the needs of victims, witnesses and professionals.
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"Video technology is vital in this and I am extremely pleased that thousands more people will be seeing more criminal justice areas and courts making use of the technology."
Devon and Cornwall have been selected with Avon and Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Sussex, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Dorset, Northamptonshire, Wiltshire, North Wales, Gwent, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire as the new areas to start using live-link services this year.
An estimated 300 police hours were saved last year using video-conferencing technology, the MoJ said, dealing with a range of offences from burglary, theft and assault to first hearings for more serious offences such as murder.
In addition, police forces are to expand the use of video-link to support witnesses, including those who may have concerns about attending the same court as the defendant.
Essex, London, Kent, Cheshire, South Wales, Hertfordshire and the West Midlands already operate live links for police officers.