Suspects will no longer be able to appear in courts via police station video links – after Wiltshire Police announced it would axe the service by December.

The force claimed it was costing £6,000 a month to staff the service, as well as taking officers away from their day-to-day duties.

But the decision was criticised by Swindon lawyers, while Justice Secretary and Swindon MP Robert Buckland said police forces needed to stay at the negotiating table. It is unclear what will happen when the service stops in December.

Wiltshire Police has followed the lead of other forces nationwide, with the National Police Chiefs’ Council saying all police forces would be stepping back from providing the video link service by the end of the year.

However, it raises the question of how suspects held on remand by police will be produced before the courts. Swindon Magistrates’ Court, which has six underground cells is understood to only be able to accommodate a couple of prisoners.

Previously, suspects remanded by police to appear before the next available court would be collected from the police station by a third-party firm and taken to the magistrates’ court.

Since March, the vast majority of defendants remanded by the police have appeared before JPs via a video link from Gablecross or Melksham police station over the Ministry of Justice’s new Skype-like Cloud Video Platform.

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Swindon Magistrates' Court

Angus Macpherson, police and crime commissioner and chairman of the Wiltshire Criminal Justice Board, said: "Whilst I recognise the benefits for smoother court business and while our local and national policing services have gone above and beyond their remit by continuing to offer this virtual service, it cannot be right that the burden for the courts falls on police resources.   The buck doesn't stop with the police but the judicial system.

"I feel the chief constable has been very fair in providing this service for longer than other forces and in offering the service until December.”

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, who is also MP for south Swindon, said he was working closely with the police and the Home Office to try and find a solution as “quick as possible”. He said: “It’s not a standoff.”

Using prison transfer officers to staff the police video link rooms was a possibility – but would likely require a change in the law, which would take time and may not happen until the New Year.

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Robert Buckland, the Lord Chancellor Picture: PA

Mr Buckland told the Adver: “I don’t want this to descend into acrimony and recrimination. I’ve ploughed a lot of money into the Cloud Video Platform deliberately and at speed because I wanted to get court recovery underway as quickly as possible. In the magistrates’ court we’ve been having success; disposals have exceeded receipts for much of the last year and a half, which is good. I don’t want to lose that momentum over the New Year period.

“Whilst I don’t want to start pointing the finger, I do think they [the police] need to stay at the table and find a way through rather than commit themselves to an irrevocable course of action of withdrawal, which is not what anybody wants.”

Gordon Hotson, a director at Old Town law firm Ross Solicitors, labelled the decision “short-sighted, dangerous, inefficient and frankly ridiculous”.

He added: “The system works and saves a huge cost to the public purse of having to physically move prisoners around from police stations to the court. It also avoids the risks involved when the court cells are used to house prisoners from different areas, crucial at this time and for the foreseeable future.

“I cannot see how Swindon Magistrates’ Court will be able to operate safely at a time when the risk level is increasing again. There is a risk that all prisoners will have to be transported physically to Salisbury - at massive cost to HMCTS - and the attendant risks involved in them getting home again once released.”