In an attempt to slash the time British police officers spend inside courtrooms, the UK government has announced it will inject £11m (€12m) into a scheme dubbed 'Video Enabled Justice (VEJ)', designed to bolster a "high-tech" network of live video streaming links across the country.
The initiative, now set to be piloted across London and south east England, will insert these links into police stations and vetted buildings so that more officers can give evidence remotely and without the need to travel to court, the Home Office said this week (4 September).
It will also create facilities for vulnerable victims to give evidence away from court, and assist key witnesses who are unable to travel. The VEJ project is spearheaded by Sussex Police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne.
If successful it may be rolled out nationwide, but a complete timescale for the project is yet to be released.
The first links, managed by Accenture, will be installed in Bognor Regis, Brighton, Worthing, Chichester, Crawley, Eastbourne, Hastings, Haywards Heath, Horsham, Lewes, Littlehampton, Rye and Uckfield, ComputerWeekly reported.
The funding, the UK government confirmed in a release, comes as part of a £60m package for digitisation projects from the Police Transformation Fund (PTF).
Bourne, who chairs the Sussex Criminal Justice Board, said: "This funding will allow us to embed Video Enabled Justice across the system and will deliver greater flexibility and access to court time, saving police officers and witnesses up to 5 hours waiting for court slots.
"We know giving evidence by video works, so now we have to scale it up as part of the policing and criminal justice transformation agenda."
Bourne said that, in some cases, officers are currently travelling to court hearings for appearances which last as little as five minutes.
In 2016 to 2017 the programme, under Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS), enabled 137,495 cases to be heard via video link, a 10% rise from 2015/16.
"We must embrace digital policing, push forward with vital reforms," commented Nick Hurd, the sitting minister for the Policing and the Fire Service, in a statement this week.
"That means we must be ambitious in our improvements and Police Transformation projects, such as Video Enabled Justice, are exactly the type of endeavour that will maximise frontline police time and mean police can better respond to the evolving challenges of public safety."
Despite the cash injection, authorities in the UK have recently complained about a shortage of funding from the Conservative government at the helm of prime minister Theresa May.
Labour Party mayor, Sadiq Khan, recently warned that incoming budget cuts could result in the loss of up to 4,000 officers working on the streets of London. "The front line is now at risk," he wrote in a letter addressed to UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd, which was leaked last month.