Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne OBE, on how the wheels of criminal justice in Sussex continue to turn during the Covid-19 lockdown:
This week I have launched a digital solution which will allow court users to stay safe during the Covid-19 crisis and keep the wheels of justice turning. TheVideo Enabled Justice (VEJ) solution is now being rolled out across the five counties of Sussex, Surrey, Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent and will mean that courts, hearing remand cases, can still function.
Video Remand Hearings (VRH) enable detainees held in police custody and refused bail to undertake their first hearing without physical attendance in the courtroom. It also means that prosecution, defence, probation and interpreters can play their part in court from the safety of their homes.
We’ve also installed ‘safe consultation video booths’ (pictured) into police custody centres across all five police forces for an alternative to face-to-face contact at this time.
Not only do they facilitate the video remand court hearings, they also offer private legal consultation to take place remotely with a detainee’s legal advisor dialling into the meeting.
A video explaining the process can be found here.
Over the last three years, my VEJ team has been working on ways to support the digital transformation of the criminal justice system and, in just two days of VRHs going live in Sussex, over 17 cases were heard via video, ranging from burglaries to drink/drug driving.
This week also marked National Stalking Awareness Week. For those affected in Sussex, current isolation as a result of Covid-19 has meant an increase in stalking behaviours online. Local stalking advocacy service, Veritas Justice, have seen a 26% increase in referrals with 75% of their clients reporting a worrying online change in their stalker’s behaviour.
The severity of risk to a victim is now defined by the amount of time invested by the perpetrator. So, with many victims receiving over 100 text messages/emails/phone calls a day, we know that these strong fixations could have a more sinister outcome.
So, this week we launched a new online chat facility on Veritas Justice’s website here to offer easily accessible support for victims across the county. In just the first week they have received 515 visits to their website seeking advice on stalking and 15 new referrals from victims who have contacted them online.
If you are experiencing behaviour that is FOUR: Fixated, Obsessive, Unwanted or Repeated you are being stalked. It is a crime and you will be taken seriously when you ask for help for yourself or someone you know.
With a warm weekend predicted, public service workers across Sussex, especially the police, are continuing to ask us to please stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
Katy Bourne OBE
Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner