Court lists pilot aims to cut costs and improve efficiency

An IT system designed to save money by reducing the number of people who fail to appear at court hearings is being piloted in Airdrie.

Apr 26, 2012
By Paul Jacques
Detective Chief Superintendent Jon McAdam

An IT system designed to save money by reducing the number of people who fail to appear at court hearings is being piloted in Airdrie.

The Court Door Listing pilot uses technology to compare lists of those due to appear at court with those in prison custody to avoid ‘no shows’. It also identifies those accused who are due in multiple court locations at the same time.

Across Scotland, the failure of prisoners to appear for court cases is estimated to cost the police, the Crown Office and the Scottish Court Service around £3.5 million each year in wasted time and effort.

From analysis undertaken in 2010, the Scottish Prison Service found that around three per cent of court hearings did not have the accused present as they were in prison custody and no one at the court knew that in advance, leading to churn and warrants being issued.

The pilot, at Airdrie Sheriff Court, is being run by the Scottish government, the Crown Office and the Scottish Court Service to improve the sharing of information between the various parts of Scotland’s criminal justice system, increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, said: “Audit Scotland estimates that inefficiencies across the criminal justice system cost around £55 million each year; that is unacceptable and it’s vital we look at new ways to modernise the system and better align systems and processes across the justice system.”

When the Court Door Listing initiative was trialled in Glasgow, the Scottish government invested £250,000 in hardware and software. Results showed this investment was paid for in five weeks through improving information sharing that would allow the accused to be brought from prison on the day. There was virtually no start-up cost associated with the Airdrie pilot as the software and equipment was rolled out from the Glasgow trial.

“This pilot in Airdrie is already proving very successful with savings in just one week in the order of £20,000,” Mr MacAskill added. “In that week there were ten cases when an individual would not have appeared in court; this new detection system allowed for better planning to allow the cases to progress without unnecessary delays and costs.

“In addition to the cost element, there is also the inconvenience to other witnesses when court cases cannot proceed. Many of these people can be victims and many will be there through no fault of their own and I want to improve the service they receive and their confidence in the system.

“The number of police officers cited to court must also be reduced to cut unnecessary overtime costs and ensure that police time is spent protecting the public.

“We are working to create a modern justice system that is fair, accessible and efficient and better meets the needs of the people of Scotland. I am hopeful that this pilot can be rolled out across the country to reduce court case times and cut wasted time and money.”

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