Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Digital makeover for justice system

Damian Green will unveil a shakeup of the justice system including digital moves for courts
Damian Green will unveil a shakeup of the justice system including digital moves for courts

Outdated courtrooms are to be hauled into the 21st century with a full digital makeover as part of a major shake up of the criminal justice system, a minister will announce.

Justice minister Damian Green is to unveil his action plan for transforming the criminal justice system, which will include proposals to invest £160 million to bring wireless technology to the majority of 500 courthouses, as well as digital evidence screens and new and improved software.

Mr Green's action plan will also see the majority of high-volume, low-level "regulatory" cases, such as TV licence evasion and many traffic offences, dealt with away from traditional magistrates' courtrooms in a bid to free up time to deal with more serious cases.

Earlier this year, the minister unveiled a national Criminal Justice Board, which features a senior judge, a police and crime commissioner (PCC) representative and College of Policing chief executive Alex Marshall, to develop the strategy and oversee its delivery.

Ahead of a speech at the Policy Exchange, Mr Green said: "Every year the courts and Crown Prosecution Service use roughly 160 million sheets of paper. Stacked up, this would be the same as 15 Mount Snowdon's - literally mountains of paper.

"If we are to win in the global race this must change, it is time we move the court system into the 21st century. This investment will help us get rid of our outdated paper-based system, and turn our criminal justice system into a digital and modern public service.

"This will help provide swift and efficient justice, treating victims and witnesses with the care and consideration they deserve."

Elsewhere in the action plan, Mr Green will reveal proposals to give police improved mobile devices with access to real-time intelligence and local information so they can start building case files from the street.

As part of a transparency drive, the Government is to allow television cameras into the Court of Appeal, while case timeliness data will be published on the police.uk website so the public can see how long cases are taking in their local area.

For victims, it was previously announced that the Government is to pilot the use of pre-recorded evidence for vulnerable victims and witnesses so that they are no longer cross-examined in open court.

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