The Home Office has announced plans to use ‘virtual courts’ in an effort to deliver “swifter justice” outside traditional court hours.
Forty eight pilot schemes across England and Wales will see extended sittings of ‘virtual courts’ and greater use of video links from prisons to courts for evening hearings. Announcing the new initiative, criminal justice minister, Damian Green, said that thousands would benefit from the speeding up of the justice system.
He said: “We want the justice system to respond further and more effectively to the needs of victims, witnesses and the local community. This is one part of our drive to create a swifter, surer and more flexible justice system for all.”
However, some have criticised the plans, most notably The Law Society, who claim it is a waste of public money. It added: “The number of criminal cases is already declining, with many courts under-used during the working week. This initiative will be an expensive way of making the magistrates’ courts less efficient, at a time when they are experiencing decreasing workloads and all criminal justice agencies are struggling with budgetary cuts.”
Some points of note of the new scheme include:
- Greater use of prison court video links in 21 areas – including Cardiff, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Bristol, Newcastle, Leeds and Sunderland.
- A shift from a paper-based system to using digital case files.
- Giving all Crown Prosecution Service prosecutors tablet devices, enabling them to present “paperless” cases in court.
- Capturing all information and evidence relevant to an investigation in a digital format which can be shared with all criminal justice agencies.
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