Criminal Justice System to get £160 million digital makeover

The UK government will invest £160 million in transforming the Criminal Justice System through digital technology. 

Some of that money will go towards introducing digital technology in courts. WiFi will be installed in the majority of courtrooms, the Ministry of Justice said today, and new facilities for presenting evidence digitally will be introduced. 

These technologies are currently on trial in Birmingham's Magistrate Court, "the only paperless courtroom in the country". Over 80 cases have been tried using digital evidence since March. 

Other measures to improve the Criminal Justice System (CJS) include giving police officers "real-time intelligence" via mobile devices, creating a single electronic document for each kind of crime and allowing the public to interact with the Criminal Justice System through digital channels. 

The MoJ is also planning a "single information management service" that will provide a single, shared repository for information about cases. 

In a report submitted to parliament today, the MoJ said that is has already made some progress in introducing digital technology into the CJS. 

For example, 90% of files submitted to the CJS by police are electronic, and 3,500 iPads have been issued to prosecution lawyers. 

However, the CJS is still burdened by legacy technology and complex, paper-based processes, it said.

"It remains cumbersome, there are too many complex procedures and archaic working practices, its use of technology lags behind other public services, and it is still characterised by unacceptable delays, complexity which leads to blurred accountabilities, and huge amounts of time and effort unnecessarily going into straightforward cases."

The announcement is notable as it arguably marks a return to major IT investment programmes by the UK government. 

IT projects to transform court system do not have the best track record, however. A plan by the state of California to introduce a shared case file system was scrapped last year after ten years and half a billion dollars was spent on it.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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