Video-link technology will be extended to more than a dozen court areas during the coming year, the justice minister announced today.
Thirteen areas, including Avon and Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Sussex, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Dorset, Northamptonshire, Devon and Cornwall, will start using live links in 2013 to allow police witnesses to give evidence to the court from police stations.
Seven criminal justice areas - Essex, London, Kent, Cheshire, South Wales, Hertfordshire and the West Midlands - already use the live-link technology, which the Ministry of Justice says saved 300 police hours last year.
It is part of an initiative that began in 2009 with defendants in police custody making their first appearance via a video link in some courts.
The MoJ estimates that over the past year 75,000 video appearances took place.
Justice minister Damian Green said: 'We want the justice system to respond more effectively to the needs of victims, witnesses and professionals. Video technology is vital in this and I am extremely pleased that thousands more people up and down the country will be seeing more criminal justice areas and courts making use of the technology.'
The MoJ also announced that the government will provide an extra £10m to fund mediation services this year, taking the total to £25m. Family justice minister Lord McNally made the announcement today as family lawyers predict a post-Christmas surge in divorce applications.
The MoJ said that in January 2012 the number of searches for information about divorce on its website almost doubled.