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Minister sits in on virtual court hearing in Northfleet

PUBLISHED: 17:56 28 November 2011

The virtual court is held at police stations in Kent

The virtual court is held at police stations in Kent

Archant

Government minister Nick Herbert sat in on a court hearing when he visited a police station in Northfleet.

The North Kent station is just one of several which doubles up as a virtual court which allow defendants to appear for their first hearing by video link from the police station.

The judge or bench, court officials, prosecutors and probation are based at the magistrates’ court in Medway and Folkstone and the defence solicitor can be at either location and use a system called Live Links to communicate with people at the police station in Thames Way.

The system which was introduced in Kent in 2009 was on trial itself and has proved a success. It speeds up first hearings as defendants do not have to travel, case files are shared electonically and police officers can give evidence at magistrates’ court without travelling to the building.

More than 1,400 people have appeared at the virtual court in Kent, saving 100 hours of police time have been saved. Kent Police has extended the trial and plans to use virtual courts will be used in 14 places across the county.

Mr Herbert who is the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, said: “The expansion of video-technology in Kent clearly demonstrates the Government’s commitment to working with local police and the courts to ensure speedy and effective justice.

“Live Links frees up valuable police time and resources to carry out their frontline duties and ensure crimes are dealt with more quickly and effectively. This is important not only for the local police force but for victims and witnesses.”

Detective Inspector Claire Nix said: “The use of the virtual court system in Kent has been a success. We have saved a huge amount of police time. Historically officers could spend hours waiting to give evidence only to suffer the frustration of being stood down. By using Live Links the officer can either give that evidence, or be stood down, quickly and get back on onto the beat and fight crime in the communities they serve.”

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