Prisoners linked to court by video

Last updated 05:00 13/12/2013

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New audio-visual linkups mean Taranaki prisoners will soon be able to appear in court remotely.

A video connection has been set up linking New Plymouth Court with Whanganui Prison.

As a result, the prisoners held in Whanganui Prison would no longer need to travel backwards and forwards for court appearances as they have since New Plymouth Prison closed earlier this year.

If prisoners travel up and back in one day it involves at least four hours on the road.

The new link, aimed at increased security and efficiency, was part of an ongoing national programme being rolled out at the cost of $27.8 million.

It was expected to save about $4.5 million over the next 10 years across the country. There would be no job losses as a result of the initiative.

In all prisons where the new AVL was available, prisoners would have access and be able to link in to the New Plymouth court.

Once the project was completed - expected to be in 2015 - AVL would be available in 18 courts and 13 prisons, Corrections Minister Anne Tolley and Courts Minister Chester Borrows announced yesterday.

Mrs Tolley said about 40,000 remand court appearances were made each year nationwide and AVL would be used for more and more of those appearances as the rollout continued.

"These links mean that security and efficiency is enhanced," Mrs Tolley said. "Prisoners no longer have to leave prison to appear before a judge, meaning the safety risk to the public and staff created by the transporting of offenders is completely removed.

Mr Borrows said AVL was part of the effort to modernise courts "so that they provide services in ways that New Zealanders expect in the 21st century".

"AVL is a big part of that. It also means a prisoner can be booked into a specific time slot rather than waiting in the holding cells for their case to be called and this also enables the court to better manage its time and reduce delays."

Mr Borrows said installation of AVL took a significant amount of time and effort and could be a logistical challenge.

"The team installed over 3000 metres of cable in New Plymouth and had to work around the court sitting times, with much of the work being done outside normal business hours," he said.

"But that sort of effort is worth it to improve the efficiency and safety of our courts."

The link has been installed in Courtroom 3, the courthouse's smallest courtroom.

AVL was first installed in the Auckland District Court in August 2010, followed by installations in Hamilton, Manukau, Christchurch and at the Mason Clinic in Auckland.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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