Text messages are being used to cut the numbers of people who fail to attend court hearings in Hertfordshire.

Every month around 40 people fail to attend their first hearing at a magistrates’ court – which increases costs and delays the justice process.

Now every adult scheduled to make their first court appearance at St Albans Magistrates Court is to receive a text message the day before as part of a six-month pilot.

That is in addition to the usual reminders that are sent out in the post.

The scheme recognises that some defendants may have changed address – but kept their mobile phone.

The six-month pilot was approved by the Hertfordshire Criminal Justice Board last year and began on February 3.

It was highlighted to members of the county council’s community safety and waste management cabinet panel on Monday.

Following that meeting, Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd said: “As the Chair of the Herts Criminal Justice Board, I am pleased that partners have come together to pilot a project to reduce the number of people failing to appear for their first hearing at court.

“The number of defendants failing to appear for their first court hearing in Hertfordshire has been increasing so we are trialling this pilot.

“Each month over 40 people fail to attend court for their first hearing in Hertfordshire.

“The impact is significant with wasted court time, execution of warrants, defendants being held in custody overnight and victims and witnesses who may have to wait longer for justice.”

The pilot is being delivered by the Hertfordshire Criminal Justice Board, which unanimously backed it at its meeting in September (2019).

I was developed by representatives from HM Courts and Tribunals Service Hertfordshire Police, the CPS, Legal Aid Agency and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.