New tech will help keep the criminal justice system moving during COVID-19 pandemic

HMCTS is bringing in a new video platform to enable all parties in a criminal hearing to take part remotely – allowing all magistrate and crown courts in England and Wales to hold secure hearings, making it easier to make sure justice continues to be served.

Most criminal cases are heard in magistrate courts and this technology – available for cases such as remand, custody time limit, and sentencing hearings – will help move people through the criminal justice system in these unprecedented times.

This technology will not be used for jury trials, and a judge will decide whether it is appropriate to use in any other hearing on a case-by-case basis. In addition, no defendant is appearing from their own home and sentencing is not taking place unless the defendant is in custody or physically present in the courtroom. If physically present and sentenced to custody, this will be dealt with in the usual way.

If people are unwell and can’t come to court for a hearing, they must contact the court for that hearing to be rearranged.

Thanks to dedicated HMCTS staff, courts continue to prioritise all hearings relating to custody, detention and bail, and urgent applications for matters such as domestic violence, and statistics released today show that 90% of all cases since 14 April 2020 have been held remotely to ensure the vulnerable are protected.

Courts Minister Chris Philp, said

It is essential that justice continues to be served in these difficult times and this new platform will help equip courts across England and Wales with secure and robust video technology to enable them to carry out more of their vital work.

I am extremely impressed at the way all those within the justice system have adapted so well to the unprecedented challenges we face

We have already seen a huge rise in the number of cases being heard remotely, and this innovation will ensure the wheels of justice continue to turn.