WILTSHIRE Police is expected to make a decision later this week over whether they will continue to let suspects dial into court from Gablecross and Melksham police stations.

Swindon Magistrates’ Court has made extensive use of the police station’s “virtual court” facilities during the lockdown – with almost all defendants remanded by the police to appear before the next available court hearing being beamed into court via the video link.

However, police forces nationwide are reported to have told HM Courts and Tribunal Service that they can no longer afford to offer the service.

A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said the force was “currently reviewing the situation” with virtual courtrooms. The matter will be discussed by the county’s criminal justice board today, with a decision made later in the week. The criminal justice board is chaired by Angus Macpherson, Wiltshire’s police and crime commissioner, and includes representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service, judiciary, council and police.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council told the Law Society Gazette police forces nationwide were expected stop using video remand hearings from December.

A spokesman told the journal: “At the height of the coronavirus pandemic police forces took on considerable extra responsibilities, at a significant cost to the service, in order to support the wider criminal justice system. As an emergency provision many forces supported HMCTS with video remand hearings from custody suites.

“Since then the demand on the service from calls, crime and arrests have returned to the same level as before the pandemic.”

A government spokesman told the Law Society Gazette it worked closely with police to provide forces with the support they needed.