The Old Bailey goes hi-tech

More than 50 Crown courts in England and Wales have adopted computer technology for the first time.

Nov 3, 2005
By David Howell

More than 50 Crown courts in England and Wales have adopted computer technology for the first time.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman QC MP visited the Old Bailey to see how XHIBIT (eXchanging Hearing Information By Internet Technology) is now providing court information more quickly to victims, witnesses of crime, police and prosecutors. The XHIBIT system will allow court hearings to be recorded which in turn will enable the police, prosecutors and witness groups, to obtain necessary case details in minutes rather than days.

The system that will be rolled out across England and Wales in due course, can update individual court users on the progress of a case via criminal justice agencies. These mess-ages are sent either by text, email, or pager. The public can also track court hearings online using the Internet or via public display screens in the court building.

Harriet Harman said: “Today`s demonstration of XHIBIT at the Old Bailey not only marks progress at the oldest court in the UK, but the fact that over half of all courts in England and Wales are computerised. Attending court can be stressful at the best of times. With XHIBIT, witnesses can, using the latest technology now be more in touch with the progress on their case. There will be local benefits too, as police officers spend less time waiting at court to give evidence, and more time policing the streets.

This technology is part of the Government`s aim to bring the court system into the 21st Century. It all adds up to a better deal for victims and witnesses in the court process.”

The new system is expected to returning a benefit of £3.9 million to HMCS (Her Majesty`s Courts Service) per annum from a contract with EDS of £20 million. Massive savings are also expected by the police them-selves as only 3% of police time in court is spent giving evidence. This equates to £100 million per annum that could be used for more effective policing.

Sir Ron De Witt, Chief Executive of Her Majesty`s Courts Service, which oversees all Crown, county and magistrates` courts in England and Wales, said: “The new system can provide criminal justice agencies with faster court information to all interested parties using Internet technology. It is making the delivery of justice more trans-parent and more efficient.”

Commander Hitchcock, the Association of Chief Police Officers also commented: “Working with XHIBIT is another example of how the police are committed to speeding up the criminal justice system. This new approach offers benefits, enabling officers to spend less time waiting at court and more time patrolling the streets. It also helps us support the victims and witnesses through the criminal justice process, as well as getting court results and bail conditions more efficiently.”

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