Tonbridge criminals to be brought before virtual courts 'within minutes of arrests'
By kentsussex | Tuesday, September 04, 2012, 20:28
Kent Police is making best use of its Virtual Court system as it pilots a new process which will allow Courts to deliver swift justice across the county.
Kent Police is recognised as being a leader in the field of Virtual Court technology and will be using the high-tech camera network to place defendants before Magistrates immediately after charge thus speeding up the justice system.
From Monday, 3 September 2012, officers at Maidstone and Tonbridge Police stations are using the Virtual Court system to process defendants who are anticipated to enter a guilty plea.
This means that they will not have to be bailed to appear at court at a later date and will be dealt with immediately.
If their case cannot be resolved the same day they will be able to move onto the next stage of the court process. This action will save around 5 to 6 weeks of delay.
If the pilot proves successful it will be rolled out through all of the custody suites in Kent, all of which are equipped to run Virtual Court hearings.
Using the courts in this way follows on from the success of several drink/drive awareness campaigns by the force in which drivers who had been found over the limit appeared immediately via the system.
In one instance one man was banned from driving within 90-minutes of being charged with the offence.
To begin with the Virtual Court pilot process will be only be used for certain crime types including drink/driving, theft, shoplifting, public order and criminal damage. It will then be reviewed and, if appropriate, expanded.
Inspector Bob Platt, who oversees Virtual Court technology for Kent Police, said: 'It is important that we move with the times and digitalising the criminal justice system is one way that we can do this.
"People do not want to see public money being spent on lengthy legal processes; they want people who are found to have broken the law dealt with quickly.
'The large scale public disorder last year really demonstrated the benefits of this technology and we were able to process defendants quickly, freeing up officers time and also space in our custody suites should it have been needed to offer aid to neighbouring Forces.
'Kent Police is now capable of utilising the Virtual Court technology in favour of putting more officers where they belong – back on the streets, rather than sitting in court for days on end.
'Streamlining the criminal justice process and expanding video technology is a huge step forward which saves time and money and also allows victims to be cross examined away from the court room environment.
"Kent Police is leading the way in this field and we are continuing to further develop ways in which the force can meet the demands of modern day policing.'
Kent Police has Virtual Court systems in each of its seven custody suites.
It also has Virtual Court capabilities at their unit based in Bluewater Shopping Centre. This is the first non-designated police station in the UK to use the technology. Anyone arrested and taken to the Bluewater unit can be held for up to 6-hours.
Defendants can appear using the network for crimes such as shop-lifting or deception without having to be transferred elsewhere in Kent.