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techUK highlights need for justice sector to do more with digital


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Digital scales of justice
Image source: Jesus Cruz Civieta

The criminal justice system needs more joined up systems, interoperability and improvements in data sharing, according to a new report from IT industry association tech UK.

Titled Digitising Justice: Putting data at the centre, the report says that despite an increase in the pace of change during the Covid-19 pandemic, there is still a long way to go, with the need for closer collaborative working between the justice and technology sectors.

“With multiple agencies capturing important data on disparate systems, data sharing can become difficult and in parallel so does providing the appropriate support,” it says. “Without adequate data it is not possible for the MoJ or members of the public to know whether CJS departments are operating effectively.”

It adds that opening up datasets held in disparate systems will help to identify opportunities for streamlining data.

The report makes a large number of broad brush and more detailed recommendations – covering the courts process, prisons and probations services – including that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and police work with techUK to build public trust in the adoption of emerging technologies. There should also be an effort between the public and tech sectors to build confidence in the ways in which digital evidence is gathered, managed and shared, it says.

More specific actions for the courts include that justice partners set up a group to look at interoperability and data sharing. It says the Interoperability for Police Working Group has already set a lead for this with relevant recommendations to the Home Office.

One story for victims

It also highlights the need for a ‘Tell us once’ online service for victims of crime, that would remove the need for them to repeat their stories to a number of agencies. This should be taken into account when designing data systems.

For prisons the report says that any technology implemented should meet the needs of separate cohorts of prisoners, and there should be a stronger digital infrastructure access to tools to support rehabilitation using technology. The latter could involve flooding buildings with secure Wi-Fi networks rather than ethernet ports, providing access to tooling for the provision of services outside prison, and a commitment to work with the tech industry on any future prison builds.

Recommendations for probation services include the provision of a digital ‘skills passport’ to certify that the holder has completed learning processes, linking learner data to other sources of information to inform strategic decision making, and considering the role of virtual peer learnings groups.

Georgie Henley, head of justice and emergency services at techUK, commented: “For techUK’s Digital Justice Working Group, data and technology sit at the heart of the MoJ’s vision for simpler, faster and better services across the justice system, and we look forward to working with partners and stakeholders across the criminal justice landscape to deliver this vision.”

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