Publication Digital Justice 18 February, 2016

The future of public services: digital justice

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Much has been made of the role technology can play in delivering more efficient, intelligent and citizen-centric public services. Digital services will be crucial to meeting the Prime Minister’s vision of a ‘smarter state’. To date, however, public services have barely scratched the surface of technology’s potential. This paper is the first in a series, kindly supported by Accenture, looking at the transformative role technology will play in the future delivery of public services.

Interview with report author William Mosseri-Marlio

Delivering justice at speed has been a long-standing policy objective. In 2012, the Coalition Government set out its ambition to create a judicial system that was “swift and sure”. This was a natural extension of New Labour’s “simple, speedy, summary justice”, which in turn echoed Lord Hailsham’s focus on reducing court delays in the 1985 Civil Justice Review. Even the Magna Carta aspired to a system whereby every citizen received justice without delay. Yet the UK’s court system remains cumbersome. Victims of crime now wait longer for cases to complete than when the Coalition came to power. This is particularly worrying when confidence in the judicial system rests on a proximate relationship between crime and punishment and the duration of a case affects judicial outcomes.

Video-enabled justice (VEJ) presents a key part of the solution. A virtual court, which establishes a video link between defendants detained in police custody and a court room, could reduce the time between custody and first hearing from hours to minutes. Transporting defendants who are detained in prison is a time-consuming and risky operation that could be avoided by police to court video links, as could the expense attached to running court custody facilities. Time wasted by police hanging around waiting for trials could be dramatically reduced.

The paper draws the lessons from previous pilots and case studies the new model spearheaded by Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne for South East England, finding that an effectively managed system, delivered at scale, could deliver millions of pounds in saving.