Online pleas submitted in 80,000 cases, figures show


Pleas were submitted on the internet in 80,000 criminal cases last year, the Government has revealed, as it unveiled plans for a fresh courts modernisation drive.

Defendants are able to indicate whether they intend to admit or deny low-level motoring offences under measures rolled out across in England and Wales last year.

Officials say the system enables courts to better prepare for hearings, saving time in courtrooms.

Pleas submitted online can be changed once the case comes to court.

The Government has been gradually stepping up the use of technology in the criminal justice system under a £1 billion reform programme.

The Ministry of Justice said "fully virtual options", where a case is heard by an online video hearing, are also being tested for some cases.

Under plans published on Thursday, the department is also considering the closure of eight courts.

They are: Banbury Magistrates' and County Court, Maidenhead Magistrates' Court, Cambridge Magistrates' Court, Chorley Magistrates' Court, Fleetwood Magistrates' Court, Northallerton Magistrates' Court, Wandsworth County Court, and Blackfriars Crown Court.

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said: "This government is investing over £1 billion to reform and modernise the justice system - making it more convenient, easier to use, and providing better value for the taxpayer.

"As we increase the use of digital services, it makes sense to consider the wider role and need for Court buildings and assess whether some are still necessary to provide effective access to justice.

"Where physical courts are to close, every penny raised will be put back into funding changes which will make justice easier to access for all at the same time as offering protections for the most vulnerable."

A consultation on the proposed closures will run for ten weeks.