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The UK Criminal Justice System is suffering a crisis of public perception. A Citizens Advice study in 2015 found that one in five people who had been involved in the UK court system left with a worse opinion than when they entered it. Indeed, only one in ten reported that they came away more impressed.  Most dishearteningly, only 48% believed that if they did have to go to court that their outcome would be fair. For a public institution that is undoubtedly one of the pillars of our society, the potential scope for improvement is significant.

Pointing to the numerous reports that call out the delays and inefficiencies that currently bog down the system is a fruitless endeavor, rather it is my intent to impress upon you that change is indeed coming…and that the change looks bright.

The Government has already shown it is committed to this necessary overhaul. During the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review, Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunal’s Service (HMCTS) pledged £700 million to forge a new system by 2020 and this includes a significant apportionment to technology transformation. The question remains, how will this change come about? 

The most crucial aspect, from CGI’s perspective, is fostering a culture of digital collaboration focussed on the co-creation of digital services. Older procurement models in ICT have proven themselves to be outdated and what we need now is an all-hands on deck effort.

This should include the input not just of enterprise technology organisations such as CGI but also a varied mix of relevant Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and indeed the department itself to create digitised systems appropriate for the modern age. A mixed economy and balanced ecosystem of organisations sharing a common objective is what I believe, required to make this work.

A key element of these new digital services will be the focus on data and media. One of the greatest disadvantages to the Criminal Justice System has been the lack of ability to share this information and put simply, this has resulted in the over-reliance on paper-based case-management. The various Criminal Justice agencies trust one another to supply the full picture of any given case, yet their technology systems remain siloed, turning this essential task into an unnecessarily arduous process. As many before me have cited, citizens do not talk about the Police, the HM Courts & Tribunals Service or the National Offender Management Service; they talk about the Justice System.

Police, courts and prisons seamlessly intertwining to support swift and certain justice – or at least this is the ideal. A collaboratively developed digital service should be at the heart of this. Data and media sharing between Criminal Justice agencies, underpinned by smart automation and robotics, would reduce duplications of effort and cut costs, and, most importantly, result in a more effective Justice Service. This data could result in enhanced local decision-making, offer better insight and be used to keep citizens up to date and informed. All of these benefits and we’ve not touched upon user perception and experience...

And more expeditious services are certainly needed. Since 2013, waiting time in the Crown Court has increased by 35%, standing now at an average of 134 days. Whilst the courts operate in a reliable way there are significant opportunities to target efficiencies and to make more effective use of our court assets. However, such delays can have a negative impact on those people entering the court system and severely impact the objective of a swifter and fairer justice. In the next in this series of blog posts I shall address the human impact that these delays can have for citizens (victims, witnesses and offenders) entering the court system and how CGI as a leading technology organisation can help.

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