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News Round-Up Week Ending 16.9.16

(Posted on 16/09/16)


Vulnerable witnesses to be spared court

Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss has announced reforms to the justice system which will allow victims and witnesses to give evidence before a trial starts, with cross-examinations recorded in advance and then played in court.
The move follows three pilot schemes in Liverpool, Leeds and Kingston-upon-Thames, mostly involving sex offence cases. Other reforms in the paper "Transforming Our Justice System" include:
 Legal jargon to be replaced by simple language
 Defendants able to plead guilty online to some minor offences and pay fines
 Plans to scrap paper forms and "go digital" in every court and tribunal in England and Wales
The BBC’s legal correspondent Clive Coleman described the paper as a “major shift in the way we do crown court criminal trials”.
"We want a justice system that works for everyone,” Ms Truss said. “That means creating a system that is just, efficient and simple." 

US department store provides free forensic services

A Target slogan invites customers to “expect more, pay less” and the chain lives up to that in an unexpected way - providing free forensic services to law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad, as Online Athens reports from Clarke County, Georgia.
Many US agencies do their own fingerprint comparison and video analysis, and those that don't hire private forensic experts, but Target Forensic Service Lab doesn't charge and criminal investigators widely consider the company's analysts to be among the best.
Investigators from Athens-Clarke police sent still and video images of a 2007 spree of convenience store robberies and a suspect to the Target lab in Minnesota, and an analyst told police they had the right man - Clifton James "Spanky" Thomas.
"We knew that their lab was state-of-the-art, probably better than most," said Capt. Clarence Holeman, assistant commander of the police department's Criminal Investigations Division. "This was a very important case, and we wanted the best details from the videos and photographs that we could get." 
After a two-week trial, a Clarke County Superior Court jury found Thomas guilty of murder and 23 other felonies, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
Target got into the forensics business in 2003 to combat shoplifting and employee theft at its 1,700 stores.
"We soon realized after we opened our first lab, we had the opportunity to offer services to outside agencies," spokeswoman Jessica Carlson said.
Demand for services quickly grew.
"We have to restrict our law enforcement cases to violent felonies and special circumstance cases," said Rick Lautenbach, manager of Target Forensic Services. "Law enforcement has always been a critical partner for Target, as our highest priority is to provide safe and secure communities for our team members and guests."
What next? DNA for two from M&S?