The way in which certain vulnerable victims and witnesses, police officers and staff give evidence in court across Norfolk and Suffolk is changing.
Live Links and Virtual Courts have now gone live across the two counties, providing televised links between certain police and court premises.
Virtual Courts are now in place at all Norfolk and Suffolk’s Police Investigation Centres (PICs) and will allow defendants to appear before court via a televised link whilst they remain in police custody before being transported to directly to their remand location or released.
This will reduce the need to physically escort detainees to court and will help speed up the criminal justice process.
Virtual Courts will also be used by officers to obtain Warrants of Further Detention without the need to attend the court in person, which makes better use of available investigation time.
Meanwhile Live Links to court will allow police officers to give evidence to a magistrate or crown court from a PIC or one of seven police stations across the two counties. This will alleviate the need for police officers and staff to attend court in person ensuring police resources are managed effectively and efficiently.
The equipment will also allow some of the most vulnerable victims and witnesses to give evidence remotely in a court case at either the ‘Harbour Centre’ in Norwich and the ‘Ferns’ in Ipswich.
Steph Smart, who has been leading the project, said: “A wide reaching change programme is well underway in Criminal Justice in Norfolk and Suffolk. The delivery of Virtual Courts and Live Links is a key component of this and successful delivery has been the culmination of hard work by a range of criminal justice agencies.
“To date, we have heard more than 700 cases via our virtual court and we will continue to enhance the service further as we progress.
“The numbers of officers giving evidence via a Live Link to court has significantly grown too. This approach reduces officer journeys to court thereby reducing cost and time commitment. Any time spent waiting to give evidence is no longer wasted and our officers can carry out office based tasks until they are called to the Live Link room. As soon as their appearance has concluded they are able to return to normal duties immediately.
“It will also give vulnerable victims and witnesses more choices to give their evidence remotely without having to attend court.”
Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, welcomed the benefits live links will have for Victims and Witnesses: “Victims of crime should be central to all that we do and it is crucially important that we all within our power to make the court process as stress free as possible. Enabling victims and witnesses to give evidence remotely can make a huge difference to the outcome of the case.
“Sensitive treatment of victims is vital to building public trust and confidence in policing.”
Stephen Bett, Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, said: “Anything that makes life easier and more comfortable for victims and witnesses is a good thing and this is the future. Victims must be at the heart of policing and the wider criminal justice system and developments like this help turn that aspiration into reality.”