MoJ To Launch Online Plea Service For Motorists

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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‘Make a Plea’ will allow motorists to bypass a court visit for minor offences by filing a plea online

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is set to launch an online service this month allowing motorists to make a plea for minor offences online, in a bid to reduce unnecessary court visits.

The ‘Make a Plea’ service was developed and first trialled in Greater Manchester last year, where nearly one-third of those eligible used it during the trial period.

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Make a Plea’s developers initially found that defendants were confused by the paperwork they had been sent and were turning up in court “just so someone could tell them what to do,” said Nigel Jones, content designer for Make a Plea, in a blog post detailing the project’s development.

A new form was developed explaining that defendants could make a guilty or not guilty plea online, see it sent to the court, receive email confirmation and then be informed of the result and told what to do next, Jones said.

The pilot began in August and by Christmas more than 1,000 pleas had been processed through the service.

The development team worked closely with Greater Manchester Police and the Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court, according to Jones. By making a plea online, users avoid a court visit and those pleading guilty may receive a 33 percent reduction on their fine as a recognition for having saved work for the justice system.

Minor offences

Defendants will be able to use the service to enter a plea in minor cases such as speeding, failing to identify the driver or using a vehicle without insurance. Such offences generate some of the highest volume of work for police, prosecution and courts, representing about half a million proceedings per year.

“The new ‘Make a Plea’ service is reducing case time and costs for the courts and the police, ensuring that they can focus on the most complex cases,” said Courts Minister Shailesh Vara in a statement. “It makes it easy, simple and quick for people to access justice.”

The government said it has spent £160m on putting digital technology into courtrooms, including video links, Wi-Fi and improved IT systems intended to reduce the justice system’s reliance on paper.

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