Wiltshire and Swindon's Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson is calling for more government intervention to boost the modernisation of the UK's court service.
It follows yesterday's (22/10) Wiltshire Criminal Justice Board (WCJB) meeting, where Angus, as chairman, listened to and discussed how the problems caused by Covid have affected the court service creating a back-log of cases, and how partners, working together, managed to reduce some delays in the court system.
The board heard that the use of technology was paramount in helping to cut the mounting number of cases, from the start of lockdown earlier this year, due to Wiltshire Police using hi-tech computer video and audio links at its custody suites to facilitate virtual remand hearings. This allowed defendants to remain in police custody and attend court virtually rather than having to be physically transported to a court building - many of which were closed.
However, the WCJB heard that Wiltshire Police intends to stop providing this service in December 2020 due to financial costs. The Force's decision follows many others in the region which have already suspended this service after exceptional circumstances due to lockdown ended. Every police force in the country will have ceased offering this service by December.
Following yesterday's meeting, Angus said: "This service was put in place during lockdown in March to deal with the exceptional circumstances.
"It was costing Wiltshire Police £6,000 per month as well as pulling officers away from their other day-to -day duties.
"We have seen many other forces in the region and country stop this service and so Wiltshire will do the same.
"Whilst I recognise the benefits for smoother court business and while our local and national policing services have gone above and beyond their remit by continuing to offer this virtual service, it cannot be right that the burden for the courts falls on police resources. The buck doesn't stop with the police but the judicial system.
"I feel the Chief Constable has been very fair in providing this service for longer than other forces and in offering the service until December.
"However, I want to capture the benefits of using this sort of technology so the court service improves to become fit and ready for an ever changing criminal landscape in the 21st century.
"As a result, I will be raising this issue and discussing how the use of technology and court modernisation can be sustained when I meet the Lord Chancellor in November."