Inspectors find that the process of preparing cases in the criminal justice system still depends on pre-digital processes
Discs going astray and incompatibilities in formats of footage from police body-worn cameras are among problems still facing a crucial part of the criminal justice system in the digital age, inspectors have reported.
A joint investigation by Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) also raises concerns about the low level of investment going in to the new Police IT Company.
The two inspectorates set out to investigate the progress of digitisation of a crucial stage of the criminal justice system, the processes used by police and prosecutors to prepare and present cases to the courts. In theory, this could be an end-to-end process, with multimedia data from police forces being examined and formatted by the Crown Prosecution Service and presented in court.
But according to the inspectors’ report, titled Delivering justice in the digital age, reality still falls far short. “Not all partner organisations’ computer systems directly ‘talk’ to each other and some still have a dependence on paper flow and manual input, despite this barrier being identified in various reports over many years,” it says.
Worryingly, the inspectors report “concern” at learning that “a widespread issue existed concerning the misplacing of discs by the CPS”. Such discs can contain CCTV footage, 999 recordings and interviews. “The inspection noted that police officers received several requests by the CPS to supply further copies of these discs.”
The inspectors recommend that all police forces and Crown Prosecution Service areas should, as a matter of urgency, jointly review arrangements for the provision, transportation and storage of hard media to ensure it is available securely to all appropriate individuals.
They also ring alarm bells over the Police IT Company, created by the home secretary in 2015 with the aim of improving and standardising technology.
“We noted that the Police ICT Company was funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions of £25,000 per police force, a surprisingly low amount given the combined estimate of £492 million forecast to be spent on police ICT systems in England and Wales in 2015-16," the report says.
“Consequently, there is limited capacity to deliver the rapid improvements required.”