Headlines: April 16th, 2004

More than half the Crown Courts in England and Wales now have new IT infrastructure to speed up the handling of cases. A total of 57 courts are now equipped with technology to allow them to communicate more effectively with victims and witnesses and the wider Criminal Justice System.The systems have been installed as part of a three-year project, called LINK, part of a 300 million pound programme to use IT to improve services and promote confidence in the system. The project is on time and running within budget, which means it will see a further 53 courts being wired and fitted with modern desktop and e-mail systems over the next two years.

The LINK project has been officially recognised for using best practice in project management. Close co-operation between the project team, the courts and the wider Criminal Justice System has meant that implementation has involved very little disruption to court users. All the modernised courts have sophisticated IT and networks and many now have facilities for the use of electronic and video evidence. The technology gives court staff secure email facilities that they can use to share information with other agencies such as the police, Prison Service, Crown Prosecution Service, Probation Service, Serious Fraud Office, Appeal Courts and magistrates courts. This is expected to lead to faster and more effective service with more defendants being processed through the system. Internet access will also help judges with their research.

The technology also provides a “future proofed” platform for new IT systems when they are introduced as in the case of prison video links, which have already been installed in 30 Crown Courts. Lord Justice Brooke, Vice President of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) and judge in charge of modernisation of the courts system, said LINK was a very important first stage in plans for modernising the courts of England and Wales. Important work was also being done to modernise the civil and family courts with badly needed infrastructure being installed in eight civil courts last month.