A new video-link system which will save time and money by allowing police officers to give evidence in court cases without attending is being introduced across West Yorkshire after successful tests in Bradford.
Senior officers asked for the system, which allows staff called as witnesses to address the court via a video screen, in an attempt to cut the amount of time wasted by physically attending hearings.
In Bradford the idea was tested with relatively simple cases involving motoring offences, with a room at Lawcroft House where roads policing staff work specially adapted to act as an extension of the courtroom.
Witness Care Unit Manager Caroline Vernon said the scheme had been effective and cost savings were expected to increase as the project was rolled out to cover all courts.
“Officers who work in Bradford have said it brings about massive time savings and allows them to be back out on patrol quickly,” she said.
It is expected three rooms will be available at major police stations in Bradford, with around five others in different parts of West Yorkshire when the system is fully operational.
“A vast number of police officers who are required to attend court don’t end up giving evidence, for different reasons, and that is very frustrating, though it is part of the justice system.
“Under this system we can alleviate that because when they are sat waiting but never used to give evidence, at least they can be doing something else,” she said.
The technology used was already held by West Yorkshire Police, for internal briefings, and the connections were made via ISDN lines meaning the system was totally secure.
Early prosecutions using the system proved successful and allowed officers to continue office work at the station until a few minutes before they were actually called to give evidence.
That meant their time could be used productively instead of waiting at court for cases which often do not proceed. In addition, the system saves money on transport costs because there is no need for officers to travel away from police premises.
It is expected that over the next few months it will be introduced at other Magistrates courts across the county and also at Crown Courts.
The system had been accepted by magistrates and defence teams had not raised objections to using the system during hearings.