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Video evidence in court extension could cost forces up to £720 million

Police chiefs called for urgent clarity from government.

Video evidence in court extension could cost forces up to £720 million

Date - 18th January 2018
By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle
5 Comments 5 Comments}

Plans to ensure all custody suites have video facilities could cost forces up to £720 million to install, according to one analysis.

Policing Minister Nick Hurd told the Police Superintendents’ Association Conference last year that a wider roll-out of video links to courts would save police officer time.

An £11 million pilot was launched in Sussex, with a plan to extend this to London and the south east, followed by the rest of England and Wales from the middle of 2019.

But Police Oracle can reveal that police chiefs subsequently requested an urgent meeting with the Home Office over how much this would cost them.

At least seven forces – Cumbria, Durham, Northumbria, Lincolnshire, Hampshire and South Wales – do not have enough space to house the necessary technology in more than a third of their custody facilities.

And it is feared that the total could be as many as 21.

An analysis presented to chief constables in October estimates that building extra room to install video suites would cost between £211 million and £720 million.

NPCC digital policing lead Chief Constable Giles York told colleagues at a meeting this would be “completely unrealistic”.

Upgrading custody suites with available space to meet video court requirements would only cost between £1 million to £9 million, but would result in “a potential postcode lottery of service provision”.

What the other forces would do instead is unclear.

He told colleagues there was a pressing and urgent need to begin discussions with the Home Office and Ministry of Justice about how the scheme would be paid for.

The NPCC had been raising the issue of funding the scheme for months, with Assistant Chief Constable Tony Blaker declaring last year that the £300,000 annual costs of a pilot in the county were not viable for Kent Police to bear.

He called for the development of a national funding strategy.

In a statement yesterday CC York said: “Concerns about the potential impact on police finances have been communicated to the Home Office, who will represent policing in any future negotiations.

“We remain committed to finding a workable solution with HMCTS colleagues, as video-enabled justice offers significant benefits to the public and efficiency gains for the criminal justice system.”

A government spokesman said: “The Home Office, police and Ministry of Justice are working on understanding the costs and benefits to all parties affected by Video Enabled Justice as part of the HM Courts Tribunals Service reform programme.

“The pilot is ongoing and we will assess the benefits once the pilot scheme has finished.”

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Ordered by: - Fri, 09 February 2018

It appears to me that this move to close Magistrates Courts was a gross misjudgment or folly. I would love to know what the costs of both systems were - especially when one considers that the logistics, as described by "So of Frank" points out. In the comparison the costs of this who have to travel some distance to get to a Court must also be taken into the equation. In one way it looks like the Government is passing the problem over to the Police to bear the costs - Manpower-wise and Financially!