Headlines: December 16th, 2004

A computer network designed to cut the amount of time that victims, witnesses and police officers spend waiting to give evidence in criminal cases is to be rolled out in 101 Crown Courts across the country. It follows a successful pilot in London.XHIBIT will allow people to track the progress of court hearings online via the Internet, through text messaging or via a pager. The system will start to be introduced nationally with immediate effect.

It will link 101 Crown Courts and criminal justice agencies and allow police officers to spend more time on the streets by making the giving evidence in court easier and speeding up the process of updating police records. It is estimated that the use of the new technology will save 80,000 police days every year.

It also means that for the first time the current status of a case will be posted on the Internet. Witnesses and police officers will be able to receive updates about cases in which they are involved via e-mail or text message. There will also be public display screens in court showing the latest status of cases.

Announcing the national roll-out of the system the Courts Minister, Christopher Leslie, said as well as releasing police time it was a practical measure that would help make it easier for victims who were under great pressure.

Commander Alf Hitchcock, from the Metropolitan Police, said the pilot at Snaresbrook Crown Court had achieved some excellent results and he was looking forward to seeing what further benefits would be reaped from a national rollout.

“We know that being able to track the progress of cases allows us to warn officers to attend court at the appropriate stage, saving their time and keeping them on the streets of London fighting crime. Giving evidence either as a victim or witness is never easy, and this system will not only cut down on the time people spend waiting at court, but also makes it far easier for our staff to keep interested parties updated on the progress of cases,” he said.

Further benefits included the faster transfer of data regarding convictions, bail and bail conditions onto the Police National Computer.