Virtual courts to speed up justice


Virtual courts are starting to be used in South East London in an attempt to speed up the justice process.

UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw attended Camberwell Green Magistrates Court today where the scheme is being piloted.

The court is connected via a secure video link to Charing Cross Police station, allowing court proceedings to occur within hours of a defendant being charged.

Straw said: "As I have seen first hand today, virtual courts have the potential to transform how the justice system deals with crimes. They are vital in the government's drive to deliver swift justice resolving cases faster, freeing up police time and improving the service given to victims, witnesses and defendants."

A statement from the Ministry of Justice claimed that the pilot scheme speeds up the "delivery of justice" by enabling courts to hear more cases, as well as saving money on transport costs and cutting delays from defendants not showing up or paperwork not being available.

It also said that when prisoners plead guilty, it could lead to sentencing happening on the same day rather than the offender having to return to court at a later date.

An example was used of a case where a hearing took place four hours after the defendant was charged with drink driving. Within 20 minutes, the court case had finished and the defendant had been sentenced.

Lord Justice Leveson, the senior presiding Judge for England and Wales, said: "The courts offer a public and open system of justice, but it is also important that they provide for the swift resolution of cases. The judiciary are therefore keen to look at new and innovative methods of increasing the efficiency of the courts, whilst preserving what is important about the system of justice that they provide."

"Using technology such as this to reduce delay must therefore be worthy of further investigation."

Although the pilot is currently only taking place in Camberwell and Charing Cross, a second location in North Kent is due to start in June 2009 with a further 14 stations across London joining in the summer.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.