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3 October, 2017

Police and Crime Commissioner wins £300k to help improve witness experience in rural areas

Vulnerable and isolated victims and witnesses are one step closer to being able to give evidence to court from the safety of a mobile home, parked in their local community—thanks to more than £300k awarded to the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire.

Julia Mulligan has been granted the money by the Police Transformation Fund. It will be used to develop proposals for a ‘mobile live links’ solution that would allow witnesses to have their testimonies streamed directly into court rooms from the safety of a specially adapted mobile home.

Julia said: “I have been championing this scheme for some time now, so I am delighted that the Home Secretary has chosen to support me with this money. I’ve teamed up with my fellow PCC in Cumbria, as well as the Crown Prosecution Service and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service to explore how this might be done. It’s a very exciting and innovative project, that could make a real difference to people living in isolated and hard to reach areas, who face real practical challenges getting to court.”

In North Yorkshire, around 15 per cent of trials are discontinued because the victim or a witness is absent or withdraws. A mobile live link solution would potentially mean that witness attrition rates would fall, leading to improved outcomes at court, and generating public confidence in the criminal justice system.

Julia added: “For victims traveling to court by public transport from isolated rural areas, sometimes there are very limited options. This idea would mean there would be no fear of them coming face-to-face with the defendant in their case on the bus or train. If successful, the final solution will also shore up the important concept of ‘local justice’, in the face of continued financial pressures.”

Current solutions for streaming into courts have suffered difficulties in rural areas due to limited broadband and mobile data coverage and low internet speeds. The funds will be used to collate work and ideas from across the country, including national digital programmes and emerging technologies, in order to produce a full business case and technical specification for a practical solution, which could be rolled out nationally, as well as here in North Yorkshire.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners set out a vision for the future of policing over the next ten years, which will shape decisions about how police forces use their resources to keep people safe. The Police Transformation Fund helps police forces to reach this vision through investing in digitalisation, a diverse and flexible workforce and new capabilities to respond to changing crimes and threats.