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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

July 30, 2009: 'Virtual Courts' Arrive

The new virtual court pilot in Lewisham Police Station was formally opened today. Virtual courts aim to  free up police time and ensure crimes are dealt with more quickly and effectively. Cases can be heard within hours of charge via a secure video link between the police station and Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court.

The virtual court pilot was announced by the Prime Minister and the Justice Secretary  on 12 May 2009. The virtual court will sit at both the court and police station. The defendant will be online at the police station, with the magistrates or District Judge, legal adviser, CPS and probation service based at the court. The defendant’s solicitor can be either at the police station or court.

Defendants still have access to confidential legal advice and a system of safeguards will be in place to ensure the rights of vulnerable defendants (e.g. those with mental health or learning difficulties) are protected. If necessary, the magistrate or a District Judge will refer the case for a standard court hearing.

The pilot began at Charing Cross Police Station in May and already the first hearings in 36 cases dealt have been through virtual court – from drink driving cases where the defendant was sentenced on the day, to more serious offences such as wounding, where the case was sent to the Crown Court.

Fifteen police stations will be linked to Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court by August. Ten of these sites are already live, with the remaining five going live over the next four weeks.

In one case, the defendant was charged with being drunk and disorderly and appeared at court via video link two and a half hours later. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced less than three hours after being charged.

The government has cut the number of days from charge to sentence in the magistrates’ courts by over 20%, from 61 days in March 2007 to 48 days in December 2008.

Courts Minister Bridget Prentice commented

‘Virtual courts bring swift justice, and in doing so, have the potential to transform how the justice system deals with crimes. It is important that the courts provide for the speedy resolution of cases, and we have already cut by more than a fifth the number of days from charge to sentence in the magistrates’ courts. We are always keen to look at new and innovative methods of increasing the efficiency of the courts, whilst preserving what is important about the system of justice that they provide to the public.’

Her colleague Claire Ward noted:

‘Virtual courts are vital in the government’s drive to deliver swift justice, improving the service given to victims, witnesses and defendants. These pilots help the courts, police, prosecutors, defence lawyers and the judiciary work better together to deliver quicker and more effective justice without any loss of quality. The faster we get justice done, the more we improve public confidence in the criminal justice system as whole.’

The Ministry of Justice argues that, if successful, the London virtual courts pilot, which is coordinated by the London Criminal Justice Board and the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, could generate £2.2 million in benefits over the year across the criminal justice system. A wider roll out of virtual courts in other areas across England and Wales could deliver benefits in excess of £10 million a year.