Panel Discussion Summary: Enhancing Collaboration and Achieving Integrated Services in the Criminal Justice System

Pips Houghton
Jul 9, 2024

At the recent Modernising Criminal Justice Conference experts across the sector came together to discuss the importance of collaborating with our CJS colleagues and how we can truly achieve joined-up services. Unsurprisingly ‘collaboration’ was the session’s buzz word with our panellists agreeing that the sector needs to engage all partners in meaningful collaboration, build a shared vision for the future and a common agenda. The conversation specifically touched on digitalisation, infrastructure, the importance of understanding user journeys through the CJS and user-centred design, all of which can be improved through collaboration. The following article summarises the panel's responses to the questions asked. All links to the examples mentioned through the piece are referenced at the bottom of the article.

Thank you to the expert panellists Daniel Boyd, Vice President for Police & Justice at Mastek, Enzo Riglia, Criminal Justice Portfolio: Senior Advisor at The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Annette So, Director at the Criminal Justice Alliance and Richard Miller, Head of Justice Police at the Law Society.

We spoke with Daniel Boyd after the session to get more of his thoughts from the session. 

Learn more about Mastek and the solutions that they can offer here.


What are the barriers to increasing collaboration and unifying the criminal justice system?  

The panellists discussed several key barriers to increasing collaboration and unifying the criminal justice system. Annette So mentioned that collaboration between government departments and the third sector is limited, and there is a lack of a cohesive strategy, both joint and digital. Additionally, she touched on the need for a shared vision of why we need to modernise and digitalise the sector. The panellists also considered insufficient infrastructure investments and how a reliance on basic uses of technology hinders the realisation of its full value across the system.

Some examples of effective collaboration within the sector were touched on by Richard Miller, for instance, Better Case Management1 and Transforming Summary Justice2. These examples illustrate the potential benefits of creating more meaningful collaboration and how engaging all partners from an early stage is crucial.

The panellists went on to say while there is a basic level of collaboration that allows the system to function, the next steps are uncertain. Additionally, the impact of COVID-19 and financial constraints are exacerbating these challenges. An overarching theme of the conversation was that current efforts tend to focus on individual projects rather than adopting an overarching holistic view of the system.

How can we improve the user journeys of people interacting with the Criminal Justice System?

Daniel Boyd expressed that to improve the user journeys of people interacting with the criminal justice system, it is essential to truly understand all the different users and their experiences. Ensuring transparency and clear communication throughout the user journey is crucial. Promoting user-centred design when digitalising services plays a significant role in understanding all users and their interactions with the system. Effective communication, particularly through digital channels, is key to improving user journeys.

Enzo Riglia went on to describe that while modernisation and digitalisation should be encouraged, it is important to maintain a connection at the local level, especially in victim and court services. There is a tension between parts of the government focused on efficiency and others focused on delivering outcomes for defendants and victims. Richard Miller made the point that physical infrastructure issues, such as the closing of magistrates' courts, create barriers to accessing justice.

Panellists also described how public protection is challenged by the current state of prisons and probation, exacerbated by capacity issues and lack of collaboration. The high remand population in prisons is causing system congestion, necessitating action to resolve this. The discussion on this question concluded that without the ability to step back and think strategically, the criminal justice system will remain in a perpetual cycle of crisis management and that utilising strategies and tools already in place like the Criminal Justice Board for local negotiation could help address these challenges.

How would the panel ensure that there is the required dismantling of the silos across the criminal justice system?

Annette So mentioned that to ensure the required dismantling of silos across the criminal justice system, she would implement national minimum standards for technology use in prisons, mandating communication and collaboration among different prisons and those implementing technology. Specifying that involving end-users in the design process is also crucial.

Richard Miller made the point that encouraging meaningful collaboration between agencies and departments through genuine consultations, rather than mere tick-box exercises, is essential. One approach could be having a single ministry responsible for the entire criminal justice system. The panel commented that a realistic solution could be ensuring proposals related to the system are jointly published by the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, and the Attorney General's Department, with clear commitments and implications for each part of the system. This joint effort would help initiate necessary discussions.

On a positive note, Daniel Boyd remarked that there is a growing drive among various organisations to collaborate better. Despite the presence of many legacy systems, there is a wealth of rich data available. By connecting and analysing this data, it is possible to understand the early triggers that lead individuals to end up in prison and identify intervention points.

We've talked about data and digital innovation technology more broadly, how do we achieve a shared vision?

Daniel Boyd made clear to achieve a shared vision for data and digital innovation technology, it is crucial to involve frontline workers, as the digital data element can significantly ease their work.

All panellists agreed that bringing together stakeholders from various sectors to collaboratively agree on a shared vision is essential for driving progress forward.

How can we achieve long-term strategic reform when government and Police and Crime Commissioners, focus on short-term strategies which can be implemented and evaluated in the four-year election cycle?

The panellists all agreed that to achieve long-term strategic reform, despite the government and Police and Crime Commissioners' focus on short-term strategies aligned with the four-year election cycle, it is essential to empower local decisions, foster local change, and promote decentralisation. Encouraging longer-term visions is essential. Annette So specifically touched on the need to change mindsets.

The conversation also recognised that individuals in prison deserve access to technology and modernisation, like the rest of society and concluded that modernisation should not be viewed as a luxury but as a priority to ensure the system can catch up, lead, and innovate.

How can we encourage tech innovation in the public sector with limited funding and resources?

The panellists agreed that encouraging tech innovation in the public sector with limited funding and resources requires strategic prioritisation of spending and clarity in decision-making. Although budgets are insufficient to address all challenges, focusing on productivity is crucial, particularly in the policing and justice sectors. Digital programs and business changes should aim to enhance the productivity of frontline workers.

Richard Miller rightly stated that it is essential to move beyond the misconception that saving money by allowing the system to remain dysfunctional is viable; such an approach is extremely costly due to constant crisis management. Investment in innovation is ultimately much more economical.

Do you think enough is being done to promote the use of a trusted person approach to reduce the number of times a person needs to tell their story?

This question sparked dialogue around GDPR from the panellists. Panellists agreed that people can be risk-averse regarding GDPR, but it provides more flexibility than many realise, particularly when there is a clear public interest in sharing data or an imperative to do so. GDPR is designed to support data sharing and not merely serve as a barrier. There was a consensus that if information could be shared more readily number of times a person needs to tell their story could be reduced considerably.

How can we strengthen networks across the criminal justice system?

The key message panellists portrayed was that to strengthen networks across the criminal justice system, we need to recognise that there is often a more common agenda than we fear. Richard Miller touched on how continuous dialogue is crucial to identify these common agendas so we can collectively push for improvements. Richard’s example was a recent initiative in London which proposed a default assumption that a duty solicitor should be called for youth suspects. Although there was initial concern that the defence community might resist this change, the response was overwhelmingly positive. This illustrates the importance of ongoing discussions among various bodies. Additionally, the development of online court cases, as mentioned by Daniel Boyd, highlights another area where collaboration can drive progress.

Final comments

The conversation was concluded poignantly by Enzo Riglia who reassured the audience that “Collectively, you're up to the challenge because if we're not, then we're lost, aren't we?”

The panel agreed that the sector needs to make use of the mechanisms already in place and develop common agendas. Annette So noted that from the third sector, for example, we have a lot more in common than we think, and it’s a matter of communicating, working together, and focusing on people first. Daniel touched on the idea that involving the private sector is also crucial; “we work across all these spaces and have a comprehensive view of the challenges, which are very similar.”

The pivotal concluding message was that our criminal justice system needs to prioritise rehabilitation over punishment, to focus on dignity, and to treat people with respect. Panellists made clear that we need to keep talking and keep remembering that it is about justice as well as about processing cases quickly.

Thank-you to all our esteemed panellists for their insightful commentary on how we can work towards a collaborative and integrated Criminal Justice Sector.

Modernising Criminal Justice is the only event that brings together the complete Justice System, from arrest through to release. We look forward to welcoming you in 2025, for further discussions on the future of the CJS and the latest technological advancements in the field.

  1. Better Case Management Revival Handbook – January 2023 - Courts and Tribunals Judiciary
  2. Transforming Summary Justice (TSJ) Renewal Programme - Courts and Tribunals Judiciary