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Report highlights blockchain potential in justice system

05/07/17

Police Foundation and CGI Group point to security, auditability and ability to share updates in distributed ledger technology

The Police Foundation think tank has pointed to the potential of blockchain technology as a significant element in the digitalisation of the justice system.

Links in chainIt has highlighted the issue in a report, Reforming Justice for the Digital Age, to be published next week in collaboration with IT services company CGI Group.

One of the key findings is that blockchain – the distributed ledger system best known for its use in the circulation of digital currency bitcoin – could increase accuracy and transparency through the use of secure, auditable distributed records in the justice system.

The report says it is more secure than other ways of storing and sharing information as a breach would require multiple points of failure in the network. Also, blockchains can automatically reconcile updates, which would reduce the reliance on lower skilled administrative staff.

Updates and permissions

Further advantages are that when a record is legitimately updated the changes will take place automatically across all the copies, and that blockchain allows permissions to be set at different levels for different people in the system. This is an essential requirement considering the sensitivity of data in the justice system.

Last year the then Cabinet Office Minister Matt Hancock said that blockchain could be “enormously powerful” in a range of government activities and could promote a new culture of trust.

The report conveys the promise of blockchain as part of a broader potential for digital technologies to improve processes and join up services.

Liz Crowhurst, policy officer at 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.”

Digital challenges

One of the other key findings in the report is that there are challenges facing digital working across the justice system, which include the need to find new ways to do so between different agencies. This requires a technical need for interoperability, cultural changes in ways of working and the development of digital skills.

Another is that cases going into the justice system are becoming more complex, especially cyber attacks, and that this demands reform in the system at the same time that organisations such as the Crown Prosecution Service have to make spending cuts.

Image by Toni Lozano, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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