Headlines: February 16th, 2005

Text messages will soon allow victims of crime, witnesses and police officers to reduce the time they spend waiting to give evidence in court. The use of mobile phone technology to cut waiting time has started in Bristol and Taunton and will be extended to some 100 Crown courts. Having arrived at the court, it will then be possible to track the progress of the hearing on public display screens. This new service supplements the existing facility where a daily court status for ten courts is already available on the Internet.This replacement of the old paper-based system will also make court hearing information available to criminal justice agencies, including witness services, Victim Support, Police, prisons, probation, Crown Prosecution Service and magistrates’ courts in minutes rather than days. The Police National Computer will also be updated much faster and orders made by the court will be processed by the police more quickly.

The new system aims to provide a better deal for victims and witnesses in the court process and to save some 80,000 police days every year.

In April a new executive agency to be known as Her Majesty’s Courts Service will be created. Under its chief executive Sir Ronald De Witt, the agency will be responsible for some 700 Crown, county and magistrates’ courts.