Improving Criminal Justice Services through Digitisation

Evelyn Woodland
May 25, 2023

The UK criminal justice system is in a state of constant change from the numerous challenges it faces. Some of these include funding uncertainty, delivering a connected justice system in the digital age, standards of policing, prison and probation reform as well as backlogs due to Covid-19. The system plays a vital role in maintaining law and order, safeguarding the rights and freedoms of citizens, and ensuring that justice is served. However, like any complex system, it faces numerous challenges and is not without its flaws.

Is our criminal justice system working efficiently?

The system has various moving parts. Central government delivers policy and funding which gets disseminated to the justice agencies: Police, Courts, Prisons and Probation Service. One of the main challenges facing the UK criminal justice system is the sheer volume of cases it handles. This means that the system is under significant pressure to process cases quickly and efficiently, while also ensuring that justice is served.

Victims are a big part of the criminal justice system, but they can often be overlooked. The introduction of the Victims and Prisoners Bill will work to improve victims’ experience. Donna Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner of Hampshire and Isle of Wight explains the importance of the bill, “The Victims and Prisoners Bill represents a pivotal moment for the CJS to refocus on victims, putting them at the heart of the system to provide them support when they need it most. At a time when public confidence has been shaken, it is imperative that the government ensures this bill enshrines victims code rights.”

The violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy has been put in place since 2021, Georgina Henley, Head of Justice & Emergency Services at techUK describes the effects of the strategy and their involvement, “this is important area for techUK as we work with industry, policing and justice partners to understand the value of digital, data and technology (DDaT) in securing convictions of violent offenders, preventing offences and supporting victims in their interactions with the justice system. DDaT sits at the heart of an effective and efficient criminal justice system. A system which puts its users at the centre and now more than ever we must see private and public sector collaboration to understand the biggest challenges facing our justice system.”

Digital transformation in the system

We are now in a golden age of technological advances, that will allow processes to be streamlined such as digitising records. For example, a digital case management system enables all agencies involved in a case to access and share information about the case in real-time, reducing the need for paperwork and improving communication between agencies.

Mark Greenhalgh, Detective Chief Superintendent, Head of Business Change, Digital Forensics Programme at Police Digital Service /National Police Chiefs Council shares his thoughts on how digitisation is occurring in police, “The prevalence of technology in all of our lives is clear, the data available is vast and provides both safeguarding and investigative opportunities for policing. Understanding those opportunities, how they are best serviced and what technology is used is key to increasing policing efficiency and effectiveness.  Digital Forensic Science is just one element of a digital investigation ‘Jigsaw’. The future of digital investigations and digital forensics needs to be built on an evidence-based approach, have best value and offer effectiveness as key values and more importantly have tangible benefits for Policing, the wider CJS and the Public.”

It is not just the police who are increasing their use of technology, Nick Goodwin, Chief Executive of HM Courts & Tribunals Service explains how technology has been modernising the courts, “Our ambitious modernisation agenda for courts and tribunals has had a huge and positive impact on the public since it began in 2016. It’s helping the most vulnerable people in our society to access justice more easily through our digitised services and by removing complicated and lengthy processes. We’ve dealt with over 2.1 million cases through our online services, for example, by allowing users to; appeal immigration & asylum decisions, dispute benefits decisions, resolve civil money claims, get divorced and apply for probate.

Our reformed systems stood up to the demand and challenges brought by COVID-19 and made our justice system more resilient. By keeping simpler claims out of court, court space continues to be reserved for more complex cases. And our online hearing capability makes it quicker and easier to access justice and helps to reduce unnecessary travel time. We continue to work closely with our justice partners to realise the reform vision over the final phase of the programme.”

Future Ideas and Plans

One of the most significant trends is the increasing use of data and analytics. This includes the use of data to identify patterns of offending behaviour and predict the likelihood of reoffending. The criminal justice system is also likely to continue to embrace digitisation and other technological advancements. This could include the use of virtual courtrooms and online dispute resolution mechanisms, which could help to reduce costs, increase accessibility, and speed up the resolution of cases.

Kam Stevens, Senior Digital Consultant at Penal Reform Services shares his thoughts about the future of the criminal justice system and technology, “With the use of technology in the criminal justice system rapidly gaining traction, the upcoming Modernising Criminal Justice initiative is the perfect opportunity to showcase these cutting-edge solutions that have the potential to significantly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.”

Join us for theAnnual Modernising Criminal Justice Conference at the prestigious QEII Centre in London on June 2024 for an event like no other.