Video improving access to justice

The first live video link for vulnerable victims and witnesses became operational last week to provide “an alternative to undergoing the trauma of appearing in court in person”.

Sep 27, 2017

The first live video link for vulnerable victims and witnesses became operational last week to provide “an alternative to undergoing the trauma of appearing in court in person”. It is part of the wider video-enabled justice (VEJ) project across London and the South East that has just been awarded £11 million from the Police Transformation Fund. The new Sussex Police suite enables vulnerable victims and witnesses to give evidence remotely via a live-link Ministry of Justice network to a suitable magistrates’ or Crown Court. “This video link means that young children and other vulnerable victims and witnesses living in West Sussex have an alternative to undergoing the trauma of appearing in court in person nor, will they have to travel long distances to attend trials at other court locations,” said Sussex police and crime commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne, who is leading the VEJ programme. “My office has been working with all criminal justice partners to ensure we can provide the best level of service to vulnerable victims and witnesses.” She said similar premises were now being sought in East Sussex and Brighton and Hove. The project aims to improve access to justice through video live-links, which means police officers and certain witnesses no longer have to travel to court or spend hours waiting for their slot, offering greater flexibility while saving time and money. Sussex Police Superintendent Jayne Dando said it was “an exciting and innovative facility” for West Sussex. “By working closely with our criminal justice partners we have been able to provide a safe, secure and welcoming place where vulnerable witnesses can come to, to give their evidence through a video link direct into court without having to attend in person,” she added. “Going to court can be a difficult experience and we hope that the live-link suite will encourage more witnesses and victims to agree to give their evidence, increase their confidence in the criminal justice system and reduce anxiety of potentially seeing the defendant at court.” Ms Bourne said the criminal justice partners she had worked with on the Police Transformation Fund bid “all want to provide the best possible experience for victims and witnesses to give evidence”. “We recognise that the conventional routes and processes into our courts are not as effective or user-friendly as they could be,” she explained. “This funding will allow us to embed video-enabled justice across the system and will deliver greater flexibility and access to court time, saving police officers and witnesses up to five hours waiting for court slots and not requiring police to drive some defendants across the county for a five-minute hearing.” With police officers in Sussex spending on average five and a half hours at court per appearance, the video links are generating significant time savings. The latest developments could eventually save the force more than £5 million. Ms Bourne, who gave an overview of her VEJ project at last week’s Criminal Justice Management conference in London, said: “At the core of the VEJ solution is the scheduling service, which matches up to 300 available video end points to participants including the police, defence, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service staff, judge or magistrate and defendant. “I want to improve access to justice for everyone. We know giving evidence by video works, so now we have to scale it up as part of the policing and criminal justice transformation agenda. “If businesses and government can operate digitally by default, we should aim for the criminal justice system to do the same where possible. We owe it to victims and witnesses to get this right.” Frances Amos, senior manager for Victim Support’s Sussex Young Witness Service, said the West Sussex live-link suite was “an inspirational and forward-thinking model, which will bring huge benefits and reassurance to all young and vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime living in the West Sussex area”. “The Victim Support Sussex Young Witne

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