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Digitisation to transform the UK’s criminal justice system

New report from the Police Foundation and CGI sets out vision for justice in the digital age

A new report explores how digitisation will transform the UK's criminal justice system and put service users at its heart, delivering better experiences for everyone. Reforming justice for the digital age, authored by the Police Foundation in collaboration with CGI, outlines the costs and inefficiencies caused by a paper-based system and details how digitisation, collaborative working practices, and technologies such as intelligent automation and Blockchain offer opportunities to resolve many of the system's historic challenges.

While technology has revolutionised service delivery in the private sector, the UK’s justice system remains wedded to archaic practices, paper-based working and legacy IT systems, resulting in inefficient services: for example, across the UK’s court system, only half of trials take place on the day they were scheduled to do so. These manual-heavy processes result in unnecessary duplication and increased margins of error.

Digitisation provides the opportunity to re-build the processes of the justice system around the citizen. Pilot initiatives such as the digital case file and online plea submissions have begun to prove the concept in practice, showing how digitisation can increase access to justice while reducing costs, streamlining processes and improving quality.  

Key findings from the report include:

  • The justice system must reform in the face of shifting demands and constrained finances: Traditional crimes of theft and violence are being replaced by domestic abuse and cyber-attacks, meaning that cases are increasing in complexity. At the same time, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are all tasked with implementing significant spending cuts.
  • Barriers to reform: Digital working currently faces a number of challenges across the CJS, including the need to find new ways to digitise working and share responsibility across, not solely within, justice agencies; the need to improve interoperability of justice systems and communication with legacy infrastructure; and the issue of ensuring staff buy-in, cultural change and the development of digital skills. 
  • Digitalisation and new technologies, such as Blockchain, will improve processes and join up services: The range of technologies and their potential applications for the criminal justice system is vast: digital platforms and online portals will empower citizens to reach support services faster, while also increasing transparency. At the same time, greater use of automation could improve the speed and quality of completing tasks such as auditing casework, and in the future could even help to address issues such as subjective bias in judicial decision-making. Blockchain technologies could present a unique opportunity to increase accuracy and transparency through secure, auditable distributed records.

Liz Crowhurst, Policy Officer, The Police Foundation and the report’s author, said: “At a time when justice agencies are under pressure to reduce costs, even as the complexity of cases increases, digitisation offers significant opportunities to radically improve services while increasing cost-efficiency and transparency. This, in turn, will deliver improved outcomes for victims, witnesses, defendants and offenders.”

Elwyn Jones, Vice President, UK Central Government and Justice, CGI, said: “At CGI, we are using technology to improve outcomes and experiences for our customers and for citizens. In this report, developed with The Police Foundation, we provide a realistic roadmap for change to put users at the heart of the criminal justice system through digital working, collaboration and new technologies such as intelligent process automation.”

Download the report

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