Crime and information: using data and technology to transform criminal-justice services

23 March 2018

Criminal justice services in England and Wales are looking to digitise. Data analytics and technology, including video-captured evidence and online courts, can support the Government’s aims of delivering more efficient services and transforming the way police forces, courts, prisons and probation services protect the public, deliver justice and rehabilitate offenders.

Enabling this vision requires better use of data. Justice services already collect vast amounts of data on crime details, court hearings and prison behaviour, but it is often held in siloes. A common platform, from which different services can securely store, access and share relevant data, would help provide the right information to the right people at critical moments.

Government has already started building this infrastructure through its Common Platform, where “digital case files” should be easily shared between the CPS, judiciary and courts by 2019. Extending this to prisons and probation services can ensure services are tailored to individual needs across the system. Information can be stored securely by using technology, such as the cloud, to ensure only those with permission to view information are allowed access under a single portal. Collaboration between organisations would help highlight both the mutual benefits of using a common system and how this can be achieved in practice.

Once in place, better access to data could feed cutting-edge technologies to help police forces collect and share evidence, enable courts to make more efficient use of time and help prison and probation providers tailor services to support ex-offenders back into the community (see below).


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the moment a crime is committed, police officers could capture and record video and audio evidence from the scene of the crime, and digitally share the information with courts. This is crucial given that technology plays a role in 50 per cent of crime.

Courts can use these data to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the justice process. A digital case management system could help avoid recent problems with disclosure of evidence, by allowing instant information sharing between police and courts. Faster access to information on case files and requirements for the trial would also enable more accurate scheduling of court time. Judges and Magistrates could then proceed in court using video technology, allowing evidence to be submitted digitally, and freeing valuable court time.

If a prison sentence is issued, secure access to information on the individual could transform the way rehabilitation is delivered. For example, a recent NAO report highlighted that better awareness of mental-health issues within prison through data collection and analysis would help plan services and monitor outcomes to support prisoners.

This support should continue as ex-offenders are reintegrating back into the community. Smarter analysis of information can identify important patterns in reoffending behaviour, allowing providers to focus resources accordingly. A rehabilitation pilot in Peterborough gathered data from 10 different services, including employment training and mental health support, to tailor responses based on individual need. Collecting this data effectively over time can help build an evidence base of effective interventions and help explain when things work (or fail) and why. Research by the ‘What Works Centre for Crime Reduction’ has already begun to do this, providing robust and comprehensive evidence to guide decision-making within criminal justice.

As individuals move from prison right through to probation, secure access to data can deliver the right services for users, enhance efficiencies and transform rehabilitation outcomes. Data has the power to make the Government’s aims- of more efficient services that protect the public and rehabilitate offenders- a reality.

Sarah Timmis, Researcher, Reform

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