£11m court video link expansion to benefit vulnerable witnesses
Police officers and witnesses will be able to give evidence without attending court under an £11 million expansion in the use of video links.
The scheme, being piloted across London and south-east England, will see a network of cameras located in police stations and other facilities.
Ministers hope the plans will free up officers' time by enabling them to return to other duties faster than if they had to wait for up to five hours in court to give evidence. The plan will also make it easier for vulnerable victims or witnesses with difficulty getting to court to give evidence.
The Video Enabled Justice (VEJ) project is being led by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and could be used across the country if successful.
Policing Minister Nick Hurd said: "We must embrace digital policing, push forward with vital reforms and transform forces so that we can take on the challenges of policing in the years to come. Crimes traditionally measured by the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales are down by more than a third since 2010, but we know that crime is changing.
"That means we must be ambitious in our improvements and police transformation projects, such as Video Enabled Justice, are exactly the type of endeavour that will maximise frontline police time and mean police can better respond to the evolving challenges of public safety."
Ms Bourne said: "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.
"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."
The £11 million project is part of a £60 million investment under the police transformation fund which will also see £23 million spent over the next three years on measures to detect, monitor and disrupt organised crime groups.