Problems highlighted with plans for video links after closure of courts

TECHNOLOGICAL problems continue to plague efforts to install replacement video links in towns and cities which have seen their courts closed, it has emerged.

Yorkshire has lost a third of its courts since 2010, with ministers saying a £1.2bn modernisation programme, including video links set up in other public buildings, will reduce the reliance on physical courtrooms.

But critics have pointed to a host of delays and problems with the installation of the new live-links, which are meant to allow people in towns and cities which have lost their courts to participate in hearings without having to travel long distances.

Halifax and Wakefield, which both lost their courts, are now close to having video links set up, West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson has said.

Calderdale Magistrates' Court in Halifax was one of many court buildings across Yorkshire to close

But he told a meeting of the Police and Crime Panel that the projects had experienced delays.

He said: "It has all been to do with technical issues, rather than anybody holding it up deliberately."

Mr Burns-Williamson, who chairs the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, also said pilots of video hearings being run elsewhere had not proved a complete success.

He said the results of these pilots were "probably not as positive as I would have wanted or hoped".

On Thursday, the Ministry of Justice published the results of a pilot in which tax appeal tribunals were conducted entirely via video link, with appellants able to take part from their homes or workplaces.

It found that while "most hearings experienced delays and technology difficulties", users were generally enthusiastic about the potential benefits of the idea.

Further pilots will be held and improvements made to the technology, the Ministry of Justice said.