HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has said it is bringing in a new video platform for remote criminal hearings in all magistrates’ and crown courts in England and Wales.
The step is being taken amid rising concerns about a growing backlog of cases in the criminal justice system, made worse by coronavirus lockdown.
It involves the deployment of the Kinly Cloud video platform, initially to 60 magistrates’ courts in London, the South and the Midlands, and 48 crown courts in the North and South-East, with others to follow as soon as possible. The platform is also being introduced to civil and family courts.
It connects securely to the existing justice video network that links police stations and prisons to courts, and can be accessed by any internet enabled device with a camera and microphone.
HMCTS said the technology will not be used for jury trials, and that a judge will decide whether it is appropriate for other hearings on a case-by-case basis.
In addition, no defendant will take part form their own home and sentencing will only take place if the defendant is in custody or physically present in the courtroom.
Courts Minister Chris Philp said: “It is essential that justice continues to be served in these difficult times and this new platform will help equip courts across England and Wales with secure and robust video technology to enable them to carry out more of their vital work.”
The first few deployments took place last month. Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said there has been positive feedback from barristers in the hearings.
“I am keen to see it rolled out widely to try and ensure that as far as possible, effective justice is delivered, not delayed,” she said.