Going online may not work in the long-term

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I’m a big fan of online shopping. I may even buy my next car online, as I don’t enjoy the face-to-face haggling process and a bit of internet surfing quickly leads to car dealers filling my inbox with very competitive discounted offers worth several thousands of pounds.

I may even buy my next car online, as I don’t enjoy the face-to-face haggling process and a bit of internet surfing quickly leads to car dealers filling my inbox with very competitive discounted offers worth several thousands of pounds.

In fact, conducting any piece of business online is now commonplace, so it’s hardly surprising that the police and courts are following suit by placing some of their services online.

Last year, Lancashire police launched its online reporting system Doitonline. It’s a convenient way of reporting a crime, contacting an officer, reporting something lost or found, making a complaint or even paying a compliment.

As this service becomes more popular, it will reduce the current excessive demand on the police communications centre, thereby allowing staff to provide an improved quality of service to callers with more urgent problems.

The magistrates courts are rolling out the Make a Plea scheme later this month, allowing motorists charged with speeding and no insurance to enter pleas online 24 hours a day. This will make significant savings in costs and in freeing up court time. It’s already being considered as to whether this should be expanded to include other low level offending such as shoplifting. These online services are effective and the way forward in light of the austerity cuts that are going to get much worse.

However, there may be some downsides. Some people prefer face-to-face contact with another person and may be deterred from contacting the police, as they are uncomfortable in using or are unable to use the internet.

More worryingly is the concern that some offences are being trivialised. The fear of being brought before a court is still a deterrent, whereas being provided with the opportunity of simply texting guilty pleas to traffic offences and thefts may encourage more offending.

The focus of attention at the moment is about reducing costs and having efficient communication processes. What should not be forgotten is that this should be about encouraging people to report crimes, ensuring those crimes are investigated professionally, providing a deterrent against offending and for offenders to be punished appropriately. Online is quick and convenient but in the long term it may be a case of putting too many eggs in one basket.