Swift and Sure Justice

In my capacity as Chairman of the Medway Community Safety Partnership, I was today asked for my views on the subject of Virtual Courts.

The Virtual Court network has been operating in Medway since 2009 and I believe that it has been a tremendous success.

As a former Magistrate I have sat many times using the Virtual Court network and have found it efficient and speedy without jeopardising Justice.

In essence, what it means is that defendants can appear before the Court, direct from a special room in the custody suite at Medway Police Station and be dealt with justly and efficiently.

It means that front line Police Officers do not have to waste time booking out defendants from the Custody Suite, transporting them to Court, booking them into Court and in so doing saving considerable man hours in Police Officers time. The officers  can quickly be back out on patrol which of course is where the public want them.

This is a good news story for the community in general and victims in particular and should save money in the longer term.

The Virtual Court network means that Magistrates , Court Clerks , Prosecutors and Defendants Advocates can all see and talk to the defendant, and the defendant can talk to them all as if in the same Court House.

It has been running in Kent and Medway since August 2009 and has dealt with some 2200 people with more than 300 hours of police time being saved.

In Kent we have virtual courts in all of the custody suites – North Kent, Maidstone, Medway, Folkestone, Tonbridge, Canterbury and Margate.

There have been hiccups in the past, as with any technology, but these have all been rectified so that we now have an efficient and fit for purpose facility that will also have a future capability of offering the service to witnesses to give evidence and for officers to obtain search warrants.

All the partners  of the Kent Criminal Justice Board have contributed to the success of the virtual court.

In addition to this, Medway Magistrates Court has been chosen for a pilot scheme starting on the 19th November running for six months in being open for an additional two hours from 5pm to 7pm on a Monday and Wednesday.

The Ministry of Justice require a full evaluation of the pilot by the end of March.

Image by courtesy of Google Images : http://bit.ly/VNdcrL

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