Criminal justice partners commended for efforts during pandemic
Plans in place to ensure the criminal justice system continues effectively despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic were commended at the recent meeting of the Norfolk and Suffolk Local Criminal Justice Board.
The Board partners recognise the impact that the pandemic has had across the criminal justice system through court closures and subsequent delays on trials and hearings and have been working hard to try and resolve the issues faced.
Chair of the local criminal justice board, Tim Passmore, highlighted the commitment of all criminal justice partners, who are meeting regularly to overcome the issues caused to the criminal justice system by COVID-19 and co-ordinating a multi-agency recovery plan.
Norfolk and Suffolk are at the forefront of video-remand technology and this has meant priority cases such as remands have been dealt with throughout the pandemic as usual. Cases involving domestic abuse and vulnerable victims have been through a triage system introduced by the courts, working with the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to enable appropriate cases to be heard remotely via video link while magistrates’ courts were closed due to the virus.
Magistrates’ courts and the youth courts are now dealing with all criminal business types. Urgent cases such as those where the defendant is being held in police or prison custody will continue to take priority.
Crown Courts are now open and dealing with a range of work, much of which is being done remotely. This includes sentencing hearings and all urgent applications, including applications for bail and applications to extend custody time limits. Pre-trial preparation hearings and further case management hearings are also taking place. Additional Covid-19 measures are being put in place throughout the court estate to ensure compliance with the government requirements, including protective screens and the use of other public buildings to expand capacity and help reduce the backlog in hearings.
Tim Passmore said: “I would like to publicly thank all the staff working within the criminal justice system who have been operational throughout the pandemic. Many have been working from home but some from their normal workplace in order to keep the system running.
“In my role as police and crime commissioner I need to ensure victims are supported, so I am hugely indebted to those working with victims and witnesses – for example, the police Witness Care Unit, who have worked tirelessly to ensure victims and witnesses remain engaged and supported during delays to their cases.
“I am pleased to see that processes are consistently being adapted and refined to reflect unprecedented changes in circumstances and legislation. This is a huge credit to everyone involved in the criminal justice system and I would like to add my personal thanks for their dedication and perseverance.”
Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green, who also sits on the Criminal Justice Board, said: “We often talk about the criminal justice system like it’s a single entity, but that doesn’t accurately reflect all the cogs and wheels that have to come together to deliver it.
“Policing, courts, victim support, prisons, offender management and rehabilitation - all working together with the shared goal of delivering justice which is efficient, effective and has the needs of victims and the vulnerable at its heart.
“There’s no question it has been, and continues to be, a challenging time for everyone working under the criminal justice umbrella, but the commitment to that shared goal is evident in everything that’s been achieved to this point.
“I’d like to add my thanks to those of my Suffolk counterpart and Criminal Justice Board Chair for the dedication, determination and innovation staff across the various organisations have shown.”
The Local Criminal Justice Board is a mechanism by which the criminal justice agencies locally can work together in partnership in a meaningful way and coordinate their activities to deliver an effective and efficient criminal justice system, with a proactive response to, and engagement with, national priorities with the aim of influencing and delivering locally those priorities
The Board comprises:
- Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies
- East of England Crown Prosecution Service
- Norfolk and Suffolk Community Rehabilitation Company
- Her Majesty’s Court & Tribunal Service
- Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner
- Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner
- National Probation Service
- Norfolk Youth Offending Team
- Suffolk Youth Justice Service
- Her Majesty's Prison Service
- Suffolk County Council
- Public Health Norfolk
- Legal Aid Agency
- Witness Service