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Government to extend pilot of flexible courts

Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green has today (11 October 2012) unveiled a list of new areas to pilot flexible courts in a move that he believes will benefit “thousands more people”.

11 October 2012

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A total of 48 pilots are currently live, or due to go live, in the coming weeks, with five different flexible models being trialled.

  • The creation of a regional virtual court is currently being explored in the north west, which will enable preliminary hearings held over video link in a magistrates’ court to be heard by one court from across a wider area than the current virtual courts.

  • Two courts (Chester and Medway Magistrates’ Court) will trial extending the operating hours of the virtual court to enable preliminary hearings in the magistrates’ court held over video link where the defendant is located at the police station beyond traditional working hours.

  • Flexible working over a weekend will be extended, with increased sitting hours on a Saturday being trialled in seven areas, including Guildford and Liverpool-Knowsley. Birmingham, Cardiff and North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court are the three areas trialling extended sitting hours on a Sunday.

  • Extending the operating hours of magistrates’ courts during the week to hear cases earlier and later in the day is due to be trialled in 14 courts, including Oxford, Milton Keynes and Reading.

  • Bristol, Sunderland and Chester are among the 21 regions that will trial maximising the use of prison to court video links (PCVL), which removes the need for a defendant to be transported from prison to court for specific hearings as the hearing can be conducted via video link.

Extending the pilot scheme for flexible courts is part of the government’s push to modernise the criminal justice service.

Justice Minister Damian Green said: “We want the justice system to respond further and more effectively to the needs of victims, witnesses and the local community. I am extremely pleased that thousands more people up and down the country will benefit from flexible courts in their communities.

“This is one part of our drive to create a swifter, surer and more flexible justice system for all.”

Green made the announcement about the new pilots as he visited Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan magistrates’ court, which has been operating extended hours since April and also uses video links so suspects can appear in court from the prison where they are being held.

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