Virtual courts open in the SW

From the Police Commissioner:


Any crime which requires the defendant to be remanded into custody for the next available court will qualify for a virtual hearing. Defendants will remain in custody, supervised by police until the outcome of the case is determined. Court staff and the judiciary will remain at the court, staying a safe distance from each other, to co-ordinate the hearing.

Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland QC, leant his support to the launch. He said: “Technology has already made a real difference to the justice system and developments such as virtual courts are vital in ensuring that victims still get justice during the pandemic. It is testament to the hard work of all involved that Devon and Cornwall have managed to introduce virtual courts so quickly across the region.”

Cloud-based technology will enable all other court users to join proceedings from a remote location with defence lawyers, probation officers, Crown Prosecution Service lawyers and, where appropriate, youth offending team staff, using video conferencing facilities to participate.

To help sustain the justice system throughout this challenging period, all regions in England and Wales are being asked to stand up their virtual court provision.

Building on its experience of running the virtual court pilot in 2016/17 under the leadership of Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, Devon and Cornwall is in the first tranche of forces to go live.

Each police custody centre – including the country’s newest virtual court at Exeter’s Police Station – will link into the reduced number of courts running across Devon and Cornwall. Cases from the custody units in Cornwall (Newquay and Camborne) are now remotely linking into Bodmin Magistrates Court. While Exeter Combined Court can hear cases from the custody units across Devon (Barnstaple, Exeter, Torquay and Plymouth).

A change in law was required to permit video and audio use and in preparation, emergency measures were drafted as part of the new Coronavirus Bill.

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