More court video links to be used in county

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Thousands more court appearances will take place using video conferencing technology in a further sign that the justice system is moving away from traditional courthouses.

A further 13 areas, including Northamptonshire, will be using video-link technology in 2013 to allow police officers and vulnerable or intimidated witnesses to give evidence.

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 over the last two years under the Government’s court estate reform programme and in the last year alone 75,000 video appearances took place.

Justice Minister Damian Green said: “We want the justice system to respond more effectively to the needs of victims, witnesses and professionals.

“Video technology is vital in this and I am extremely pleased that thousands more people up and down the country will be seeing more criminal justice areas and courts making use of the technology.

“This is one part of our drive to create a swifter and more efficient justice system for all.”

Avon and Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Sussex, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Dorset, Northamptonshire, Devon and Cornwall, Wiltshire, North Wales, Gwent, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire will 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.

Kent Police recently installed two remote witness links away from the courts in Ashford and Bluewater shopping centre, while in South Wales a witness link is operating from a local authority building.

Essex, London, Kent, Cheshire, South Wales, Hertfordshire and West Midlands already operate live links for police officers.