Test 31 March, 2017

Connected justice: a single system? (III)

As policing and justice organisations look towards a digitally enabled justice system, that delivers major benefits to those who work in it, use it, and pay for it, what strikes me is how similar the issues are to those in the health system a few years ago. That sector is already seeing transformations in the patient ‘journey’ and there are many areas in the criminal justice system journey which could be transformed by the application of technology.

  • Police officers can have live access to key information fields to confirm a suspect’s medical status – 30 per cent of suspicious behaviour has mental health as the underlying cause. They can also capture information from digital sources, index it and securely store in the cloud, then deliver this evidence remotely, saving hours per day.
  • The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) can receive police statements and evidence electronically. They can then collaborate with key decision makers remotely, assessing the likelihood of a successful prosecution based on that evidence.
  • The court system can increase the number of hearings conducted daily by having one single electronic Case Management File shared between all parties. They can also use technology to reduce the number of postponed hearings due to ‘no-shows’.

Prisons and probation services can have improved information allowing more tailored prisoner regimes. They can reduce costs by using remote video technology instead of transporting prisoners to and from hearings. Additionally, improved education and prisoner intervention programmes can be delivered at lower cost within the prison environment, enabling better reintegration of offenders back into the community. It can also enable more informed decisions to be made regarding offender management, ultimately leading to reduced reoffending – the whole point of having a justice system in the first place.

Significant activity is already well underway to address many of the above points, including:

  • Pilots of the first Digital Case File.
  • The creation of a Case Data Store for criminal courts, reducing the massive paper and manual process overhead.
  • Wi-Fi access in courts, enabling secure access to information, and digital collaboration facilities to speed up the presentation and interpretation of evidence.
  • The ‘digital prison’ at HMP Wayland and the on-line visit booking system – the first of its kind in the UK and sure to extend to other prisons and areas of public interactions.
  • Greater use of video links for evidence-giving, removing the cost of moving people to and from prisons and courts, delivering against the ‘swifter justice’ agenda.

One example of how digital justice could work is the solution BT developed for Islington Clinical Commissioning Group and Borough Council that enables over 200,000 patient records to be securely accessible by 10,000 health and care practitioners, patients and families. It’s already enabling quicker decision-making, and the provision of more relevant healthcare which is also often cheaper overall.

Now suppose these were instead case records moving from police to CPS to courts to prisons to probation. What impact would that have on the speed and cost of delivering justice in the UK?

To quote Natalie Ceeney, former CEO of HM Courts and Tribunal Service: “It’s not just about digitising and introducing technology to streamline processes, but also about rethinking processes for today’s society. Doing this will, of course, reduce costs. But, far more critically, it will deliver better justice.”