Tri-Force collaboration proposals focus on bringing more offenders to justice

Policeand crime commissioner Councillor Jason Ablewhite,

Policeand crime commissioner Councillor Jason Ablewhite, - Credit: Terry Harris Photography

Virtual courts will help bring offenders to justice more swiftly across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire (BCH).

Chief constable Alec Wood

Chief constable Alec Wood - Credit: Archant

The chief constables and police and crime commissioners (PCCs) for the three forces have agreed recruitment of staff to run the virtual courts at custody locations across the counties.

Virtual courts have been operating in Hertfordshire since 2012 and so the move, agreed at a strategic alliance summit, will bring the other two counties into line.

The introduction of virtual courts across BCH is part of an increased move nationally to use video enabled justice, which allows defendants to attend their first magistrates’ court hearing via a video link.

It is expected to save the three forces thousands of pounds every year, as well as save police officers time by enabling them to make court applications without having to travel or spend time waiting.

This time can be re-invested into frontline policing and protecting local communities.

The expansion of virtual courts across Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire is also expected to help increase the number of early guilty pleas.

Most Read

In Hertfordshire the number of early guilty pleas has increased in cases where this new technology is being used.

Swifter resolution will save even more officers’ time and improve the service provided to victims and witnesses who can avoid protracted and stressful court cases.

Additional proposals agreed at the summit were the collaboration of a second phase of criminal justice functions, which include administration of justice across the three forces, plus crown court liaison officers and witness care in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

These proposals are now subject to formal staff consultation and, if confirmed, would see these business areas join typing services, tape libraries and criminal justice policy and performance which collaborated earlier this year.

The decision was also taken to delay any structural changes in relation to collaboration of public contact, which includes the three force control rooms and crime recording teams, for at least two years.

Councillor Jason Ablewhite, police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire, said: “The introduction of virtual courts will free up valuable police time and resources and ensure crimes are dealt with both quickly and efficiently. This will not only benefit our police forces but victims and witnesses too.”

Chief Constable Alec Wood added: “The test case gave some very compelling evidence on how we can make great efficiencies by reducing officers’ time through the video-enabled virtual courts, but more importantly, how we can ensure we give the best possible service to our victims and witnesses at a difficult time.

“We remain committed to the collaborative work we already undertake and continue to work together to ensure the best service for our communities.”