Hampshire Constabulary has become the first police force in England to use the Common Platform case management system for single justice procedure (SJP) cases.
It is beginning with traffic offence details that will be uploaded into the system with the volume gradually increasing.
As soon as the defendant provides a guilty plea online, the system will prioritise their case. A plea may be dealt with immediately and defendants will no longer have to wait a minimum of 28 days for an outcome (for a fine, withdrawal or referral to open court), as is currently the case.
Postal pleas will still be an option and will go to a centralised unit and uploaded to the case.
All defendants can request an open hearing in court whether they enter a guilty or not guilty plea.
The Common Platform has been developed by HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) to enable organisations in the justice system to share case information more easily.
It said its service centre will support defendants and magistrates’ courts using the process, rather than queries going to individual courts.
Emily Brown, summary justice unit team leader at Hampshire Constabulary, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been chosen as the first force to deal with traffic offences using this new system. I can see immediate benefits and some real efficiencies for the police, as well as for our local citizens.
“It will mean that when people are charged with traffic offences, like speeding or driving without insurance – and if they plead guilty – they’ll be dealt with efficiently and fairly by the justice system, with minimal delays.
“It means our local courts can concentrate on those cases that really need to be there and for us, as prosecutors, we’re able to see and act on real time results.”
The SJP is an element of the Single Justice Service, introduced in 2015, which allows a single magistrate to deal with adult, summary-only, non-imprisonable offences for guilty pleas and ‘proof in absence’ cases (when a defendant has not responded to a charge). These cases account for about 850,000 of criminal cases per annum, which almost exclusively result in a financial penalty.
The magistrate, supported by a legal adviser, decides on these cases outside of the courtroom in the absence of the prosecutor and defendant. It allows those who plead guilty to resolve their case without going to court and frees up time for other cases.
HMCTS is currently rolling out the Common Platform for other criminal cases and to all criminal courts in England and Wales. It plans to complete the process by the end of this year.
It is also planning to extend the roll out to non-police prosecutors, including local authorities and transport companies over the next few months.
Image from iStock, mrdoomits