PCC John Campion is taking a stand for victims to ensure the justice system works for them by calling on the Government.
In a letter to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, the PCC voiced concern about the current situation around court backlogs and the video remand hearings that have been introduced, and sought support for the system to be made better for victims and for it to not affect policing.
The West Mercia PCC has already expressed concern publically over the impact Covid-19 has had on the court system and the backlog it has created.
Despite video remand hearings being set up, they have had a detrimental impact organisationally for West Mercia Police as the force has had to assign operational resources in order to manage the new process, undermining its ability to protect and safeguard local communities. The impact on policing has been replicated across the country and, as a result, the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) announced they wouldn’t be supporting the current approach from 1st December.
In light of this, the PCC has asked for urgent support from the Government in order to maintain virtual remand hearings, which have helped create additional capacity in the courts and benefitted victims and witnesses. The PCC believes that digital and video solutions play a part in realising a more efficient and effective criminal justice system, however those solutions need to be implemented in a fair and justifiable way, which didn’t happen in this instance. In order to mitigate the impact video remand hearings has had on policing, the PCC has asked for additional funds from the Home Office to meet the operational costs for delivering the service. He has also asked the Government to consider longer term solutions involving changes to both legislation and the prisoner escort services contract.
PCC John Campion said: “It is my duty, as Commissioner, to ensure that the communities of West Mercia receive the best possible policing service and unfortunately the current approach to video remand hearings is undermining that ability.
“I am taking a stand for all those victims and survivors of crime who are facing, on average, 16 weeks wait for trials and for it to also not affect wider communities. Whilst I understand Covid has had an impact on the court system, action needs to be taken to make sure the solution is sustainable and works for all those involved.
“I have called on the Government to consider how this situation moves forward, and to ensure that the communities of West Mercia don’t suffer from how it is currently running. I am willing to work with the Government and partners to see it is improved.”
Issued on: Monday 26th October 2020