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Big Brother is prosecuting you: More cops to use court vid chats

Plod, witnesses, defendants beamed into hearings via webcam

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Coppers will soon give evidence in almost half the courts in England and Wales from their police stations via video-conferencing links.

Justice minister Damian Green announced the government will triple the number of installed video connections to further free up officers' time and potentially save taxpayers some cash.

The Ministry of Justice will stump up for the expanded video-over-IP service to spare bobbies the trek to court to give evidence during prosecutions. Instead, they can stay at their base, flick on a webcam and be beamed into a TV monitor in the relevant hearing.

"Under existing practice a considerable amount of time and money is wasted by police officers travelling to and from court and waiting outside the courtroom to give evidence," said a Ministry of Justice spokesperson.

The seven police forces already kitted out with the video links have used the technology in an estimated 75,000 cases and saved 300 man hours as well as transport costs and cut the need to move prisoners between hearings and custody, according to the ministry. Essex, London, Kent, Cheshire, South Wales, Hertfordshire and West Midlands all use the connections.

There are a total of 42 so-called criminal justice areas in England and Wales, and the new roll-out will reach 20 in total.

Vulnerable witnesses unwilling to be in the same court room as the accused and even defendants on their first hearing can also be beamed into TV screens from afar.

There is no further information on exactly which webcam systems will used, but the ministry told The Reg that the video feeds are scrambled. The officials also said the video-over-IP service is not Skype, but video-conferencing on a secure network already used by criminal justice workers. ®

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