Test 31 March, 2017

Connected justice: a single system? (II)

As we enter our second term as Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC), we are now firmly at the heart of local and national policing, attempting to reshape the criminal justice system around the experience of victims and witnesses.

However, the harrowing accounts we hear make it clear that the criminal justice system isn’t moving quickly or smoothly enough.

The Ministry of Justice’s vision for PCCs is to galvanise the local policing and criminal justice landscape and provide leadership for multi-agency partnerships.

As Chair of the Sussex Criminal Justice Board, I’ve worked to join-up local criminal justice services to make our collective ambition and service provision more effective than the sum of its parts.

Our Strategic Restorative Justice (SRJ) partnership of 20 organisations is delivering benefits for victims and offenders, and for society. The national reoffending rate is 26 per cent but for offenders reviewed after SRJ interventions, it is 17 per cent with 100 per cent satisfaction for victims.  In its first year, the partnership also delivered eight times the national average of outcomes [EH1] and gained national accreditation across all participating agencies.

Reform of the criminal justice system must involve all the component parts, but our ambition to improve it, should not be hamstrung by a nostalgic attachment to ancient and established processes.

We all depend on 21st century digital technology to communicate, shop and conduct everyday business, so why does the criminal justice system appear to be stuck in the 19th century?

If we were designing a ‘system’ from the start, we would put the experience of people at the core of it, to ensure that victims, witnesses, criminal justice agencies and the public would trust and want to engage with it. The sad reality is that current processes are arcane; people often fail to appear in court and justice is not always served.

With so many agencies navigating a course through the system, we need to ensure they have a golden thread that seamlessly leads them from incident to judicial outcome.

We need to minimise duplication of data, maximise cooperation and data sharing between agencies and exploit the technology we already rely on in virtually every other aspect of modern life.

Previous attempts to use video to give evidence have failed to deliver the expected return on investment due to insufficient cross-agency collaboration or the leadership to succeed.  We need a new, video-enabled justice (VEJ) service to encourage the uptake of technology and deliver on the Government’s plans for criminal justice reform.

Working with partners in London, Kent and Surrey, my office is developing a VEJ model for the South East that will save thousands of hours of police officer time and speed up the process of giving and transferring evidence. This allows officers to spend more time policing their own areas

My office and its strategic partners will present a VEJ solution as part of a transformation project where individual agencies retain autonomy, but commit to improve the use of technology.

Overcoming organisational inertia is challenging but, by simply asking “why can’t we?” and not accepting the status quo, attitudes and services can, and will, change.