Sussex PCC secures £11m for regional video-enabled justice programme
The Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, Nick Hurd, has announced £60m of funding for police reform and digital projects from the Police Transformation Fund.
Of this, £11m has been awarded to the video-enabled justice (VEJ) initiative led by Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne on behalf of criminal justice partners across London and the South East region.
“I welcome this ground breaking investment from the Home Office,” said Mrs Bourne. “The criminal justice partners I have worked with on this bid all want to provide the best possible experience for victims and witnesses to give evidence.
“We recognise that the conventional routes and processes into our courts are not as effective or user-friendly as they could be.
“This funding will allow us to embed video-enabled justice across the system and will deliver greater flexibility and access to court time, saving police officers and witnesses up to five hours waiting for court slots and not requiring police to drive some defendants across the county for a five-minute hearing.
“At the core of the VEJ solution is the scheduling service which matches up to 300 available video end points to participants including the police, defence, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service staff, judge or magistrate and defendant.
“I want to improve access to justice for everyone. We know giving evidence by video works, so now we have to scale it up as part of the policing and criminal justice transformation agenda.
“If businesses and government can operate digitally by default we should aim for the criminal justice system to do the same where possible. We owe it to victims and witnesses to get this right.”
Minister for Policing and the Fire Service Nick Hurd said: “We must embrace digital policing, push forward with vital reforms and transform forces so that we can take on the challenges of policing in the years to come.
“Crimes as traditionally measured by the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales are down by more than a third since 2010, but we know that crime is changing.
“That means we must be ambitious in our improvements and Police Transformation projects, such as video-enabled justice, are exactly the type of endeavour that will maximise frontline police time and mean police can better respond to the evolving challenges of public safety.”
“I am delighted that after a competitive tender process, I have appointed Accenture as our delivery partner for the VEJ programme,” Mrs Bourne added.
Allan Fairley, Managing Director of Accenture’s Public Safety business in the UK and Ireland, said: “The Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner is taking a visionary approach by using advanced digital technologies to deliver real benefits to crime victims and witnesses, while also reducing costs. Accenture is proud to have been selected for a project that will ultimately improve the delivery of justice to UK citizens.”
Notes for editors
The funding marks the third phase of the video-enabled justice programme since its inception in 2015.
In 2015 the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner was awarded £1.2m from the Home Office Police Innovation Fund. Working with criminal justice partners across London, Surrey, Kent and Sussex and business consultants, a viability study setting out what this project could look like. This phase covered the cost of installing live links at 14 police bases across Sussex so police witnesses could provide evidence at Bognor Regis, Brighton (Crowhurst Road), Brighton (John Street), Worthing Centenary House, Chichester, Crawley, Eastbourne, Hastings, Haywards Heath, Horsham, Lewes HQ, Littlehampton, Rye and Uckfield.
It also covered the set-up of video links for virtual courts at six custody suites in the county – at Brighton, Chichester, Crawley, Eastbourne, Hastings and Worthing – for first appearances in magistrates’ courts from police custody for defendants refused bail.
And it included the cost of installing remote video links at Hellingly, a medium secure hospital, so that patients and health professionals can give evidence in court via video link. You can read more about that here.
In April 2016 the SPCC was successful with a further bid of £1.3m to the Home Office Police Innovation Fund to build a detailed business case for video-enabled justice, working with criminal justice partners setting out how this programme will be developed and delivered. The business case details how a new VEJ service in London, Sussex, Surrey and Kent could increase and improve video utilisation in order to deliver swift, fair and efficient justice.
The current phase focuses on delivering the core VEJ solution - the scheduling service - which matches video end point availability to participant availability.
The four stages that this phase of the VEJ programme will focus on are:
• Prison to court video link
• Bail application virtual court appearance
• Police witness live link court appearance
• Victim and witness live link court appearance.