Criminal cases will be handled digitally from the moment a crime is committed through to the conclusion in court, Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green has announced today.
Speaking at Bromley Magistrates’ Court in London, Damian Green said that in future every magistrates’ court in England and Wales would operate digitally. The project, aimed at dragging court procedures into the 21st century, will cause mounds of legal paperwork to be replaced by laptops and video screens in magistrates and crown courts across England and Wales.
The Government announced last month that courts across England and Wales would be upgraded using new funding of £75m a year. By July 2016, all criminal courts are due to be operating digitally and the criminal courts system will have its working practices transformed radically. Most likely to be affected is the success rate of domestic abuse cases, traditionally among the most difficult to prosecute but where visual evidence of victims’ injuries is routinely presented at the court.
The changes, outlined today in the new Criminal Justice System Digital Business Model, aim to help victims and witnesses by ensuring cases progress as rapidly as possible. The court in Bromley is one of the first in the UK to be equipped with new digital presentation facilities.
Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green said:
“I want to see a Criminal Justice System where information is captured once by a police officer responding to a crime and then flows through the system to the court stage without duplication or reworking. Many forces are already using digital technology like body-worn video, which can be used to collect compelling evidence at the scene of crimes.”
“We can see here in Bromley what can be achieved and we are committed to making this happen across the country.
“Our Digital Business Model provides us for the first time with a full picture of what a transformed digital Criminal Justice System could look like when all of our reform programmes deliver their goals.”
The new Criminal Justice System Digital Business Model will link together the Police, HM Courts & Tribunal Service and the Crown Prosecution Service. The aim is also to speed up justice, with fewer pre-trial hearings, and officers and defendants giving evidence by remote video-links to police stations and prisons.
Stephen Greenhalgh, the deputy mayor of London with responsibility for policing, said the chance to work digitally was enabling officers to cut down on paperwork and remain on the beat for far longer each shift.
“The average case takes six months [to process through court. That’s too long. Body cameras are also a great way for the police to calm things down. One officer told me he would rather get rid of his CS spray than his video camera.”
The Digital Business Model includes plans for:
- Police officers to be equipped with the tools they need to be able to start capturing evidence digitally at the scene of a crime, taking statements and uploading digital case information using mobile devices.
- Police to be able to capture witness and victims statements electronically on their mobile device or bodyworn video at the scene of the crime where available while the events are fresh in victim’s or witness’ minds.
- A digital system which will mean the police contact the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) directly for a charging decision.
- CPS staff will have access to the case information in order to make a charging decision and then process the case.
- Defendants in custody to appear in court via prison to court video links for pre-trial hearings, where appropriate, which will remove transport costs and speed-up the justice process.
- Criminal prosecutors and defence lawyers in magistrates’ courts to work digitally, presenting cases from mobile digital devices in court. Case information to be viewed digitally by magistrates on digital devices.
- Wi-Fi connections to be used to allow professional court users to access their own systems and the internet.
- Digital in-court presentation equipment to display evidence like CCTV, photos or 999 calls.