VIDEO COURTS TO REDUCE PRESSURE ON POLICE CELLS
Video court hearings will reduce pressure on police cells following the introduction of new legislation by the Andrews Labor Government.
The Justice Legislation (Evidence and Other Acts) Amendment Bill 2016 will maximise the use of audiovisual technology in court hearings for adults in custody.
Increased use of the technology will result in only those prisoners who are required to attend court in person being transferred to police cells prior to their court hearing.
Under the new laws, many hearings of a primarily administrative nature will be held by audiovisual link. An accused person will still physically appear before the court for a first appearance, unless he or she consents to appear by video link.
The Bill is supported by a $14.7 million upgrade and expansion of the audiovisual conferencing network at the Magistrates’ Court, including $8.1 million provided in the 2015-16 Victorian Budget.
This expansion is well underway, with the new technology already operational at the Children’s Court and Magistrates’ Courts in Melbourne, Bendigo, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Frankston, Geelong, Ringwood, Sunshine and Werribee.
Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court will come online once its building works are completed later this year, and the full statewide rollout to all 53 Magistrates’ Court locations is expected to be completed by early 2017.
The increased use of video court hearings will change the way legal practitioners communicate with their clients, as most video court hearings do not use all of their allocated time, creating an opportunity for client conferences before or after a hearing.
The legislation will also amend the Legal Aid Act 1978 to expand the Victoria Legal Aid Board from four to six non-executive members.
Enlarging the membership will increase the diversity of experience available to the board, which gives it greater capacity to deal with current and future challenges.
Quotes attributable to Attorney General Martin Pakula
“This is about modernising Victoria’s justice system in the most efficient and effective way.”
“Video technology will help ease some of the pressure on police cells and the court system more generally, ensuring prisoners dealt with in a timely manner.”