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Improve technology for virtual hearings

The Police and Crime Commissioner has a statutory responsibility to work with Criminal Justice System (CJS) partners to ensure an efficient and effective justice system locally.

This work is essentially driven at the strategic level by the Dorset Criminal Justice Board, chaired by the Chief Constable, and of which the commissioner is an active participant.

The commissioner is keen to work with partners to promote technology and more effective IT systems and structures to facilitate some of the required processes within the CJS. One of these ambitions relates to the ability for remand hearings, prisoner productions and court cases to be held virtually.

All three custody blocks within Dorset use ‘live links’ hardware to enable remand hearings to take place. This technology can also be used for prisoner productions - in which someone who is serving a custodial sentence admits another crime and has to be interviewed by the Force, traditionally in a police custody suite rather than in prison.

However, progress of the national Video Enabled Justice (VEJ) programme has been slow, as forces are waiting for issues around resourcing and facilities to be resolved and for an agreed national operating model from Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service.

The PCC, in his capacity as Chair of the Independent Custody Visitors Association (ICVA), has written to Ministers to highlight his concerns over the delays to the introduction of this system.

Despite these challenges it has been agreed locally by partner agencies that the link from Bournemouth custody can be used for disabled detainees, rather than requiring a transfer of the detainee to a Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant court.

In May 2019, a member of the Police & Crime Panel carried out a ‘spotlight scrutiny’ review of this commitment, along with related commitments. The comment on this commitment was:

“There is good evidence that the investment of equipment, IT and staff has made a difference in how witnesses and victims can provide evidence.

"With the additional support provided by the Witness Care Team and the efficiencies gained from freeing up police officer time the review has established that this has been money well spent. The use also of video enabled technology to assist police in other functions (interviews, Inspector Reviews etc.) has also made a difference in reducing officer time in travel and in turn efficiently deliver elements of the detention process.

“The current response by the police in how defendants are managed is a pragmatic response that is efficient, effective and economical.”

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