Eastbourne is to show how police witnesses can give evidence to courts from Eastbourne Police Station in Hammonds Drive today (5 December).
Hellingly Hospital and Brighton Magistrates Court will also take part in the link up this afternoon. It’s aim is to make justice swifter and more accessible.
Under the Video Enabled Justice programme, led by Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, police officers and witnesses already provide evidence to court through 14 live link rooms and a new live link is now up and running in the Hellingly Centre. Police officers in Sussex spend an average 5 and a half hours at court per appearance so the new rooms save significant time.
The live-link at Hellingly hospital will avoid patient stress from being held in court cells before and after giving evidence and the costs associated with moving patients to and from court - saving around £1,000 per patient per day.
The move has been made possible through funding from the Police Innovation Fund secured by Sussex PCC Katy Bourne and could eventually save the Force more than £5m. Part of the ongoing Video Enabled Justice (VEJ) programme will see around 14 end points at police locations, a further six are virtual courts to enable first appearances in Magistrates’ Courts from police custody for defendants refused bail.
VEJ meets the Commissioner’s priority in her Police & Crime Plan to improve access to justice for victims and witnesses.
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said, “The interests of victims and witnesses must come first. This is why I am leading the Video Enabled Justice project across the South East to scale up the use of technology and improve the experience of victims and witnesses giving them greater access to justice. This will also save time and money for police officers, courts, prison staff and other partners.
“Having a live link room up and running in Hellingly medium secure hospital is a key element in ensuring that VEJ speeds up justice and at the same time save money and prevent s often very vulnerable patients having to be held in court cells. This is a perfect example of the police, the courts and the health authorities working together in partnership for the benefit of victims.
“Victims often suffer anxiety about their court appearances and witnesses often do not appear because of the personal negative impact on their lives. We owe it to the people who have the courage to report crimes and those who will testify on their behalf to make this a more comfortable process capitalising on technology that is already available.”
Sir Oliver Heald QC, Minister of State for Courts and Justice, welcomed the initiative. He said, “We have a world leading legal system and are investing £1 billion to modernise our courts and deliver a fully-connected criminal courtroom by 2020.
“By making the best use of technology we can improve access to justice and the experience for all court users, in particular vulnerable victims and witnesses. I welcome the adoption of innovation across the criminal justice system which will help to deliver swifter justice.”
Sussex Police Detective Superintendent Nick May said, “The addition of Hellingly to the network and Sussex Partnership Trust means that everyone is linked up and open to the future possibilities of Video Enabled Justice.
“Giving evidence to court is an essential part of a police officers’ job and anything that supports the valuable work of magistrates’ court is positive. But on average where officers have to give evidence in Sussex it can take up to 5 and half hours and this speeds that up.
“This initiative will substantially increase the amount of time that officers can stay on patrol on the frontline. It’s a win-win for the police and the public.”