Categorized | Criminal Justice

Digital working

Digital working

On Tuesday, Policing and Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green delivered a speech at the centre-right think tank ‘Reform’ on crime and justice policy.

One of the themes of his speech was the failure to exploit technology. He said: “Anyone who compares the way the criminal justice system works with any other modern workplace will be immediately struck by the terrible failure to take advantage of all the benefits that technology can bring. If you compare basic processes that take place across the country all the time – from booking a holiday to downloading music – to those that take place in the CJS the difference is stark.”

He went on to say: “The aim for the CJS must be a single case file that progresses electronically right through the system…” adding: “That is why we’re looking at future contracts for criminal legal aid services which will require firms who want them to work digitally. The rest of the world went digital years ago. It is time for the criminal justice system to catch up.”

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) had agreed to drop four controversial changes to ongoing legal aid contracts following talks with the Law Society. One of the proposals would have given the LSC powers to alter criminal contracts in response to changes to prosecution procedures. According to the ‘Law Gazette’: “Had it gone ahead, this amendment would have allowed contracts to be changed to take into account initiatives such as the Crown Prosecution Service’s moves towards digital working and, the Law Society argued, would have given the prosecution an unfair advantage.”

But, regardless of criminal contracts, digital working across the criminal justice system is happening now, and it begs the question of how much this is a pyrrhic victory, particularly in view of the minister’s speech. One anonymous writer was indeed moved to comment, pre-speech, “well done everyone on reaching this agreement. chairs. titanic. deck.”

The CJS efficiency programme, with digital case files used routinely in criminal justice proceedings from the police to the CPS and onwards to the defence, courts, probation and prisons, is being rolled out. Courts in Early Adopter Areas are already being fitted with WiFi. The latest guidance, published by the MoJ last Tuesday, states: “By April 2013, digital working will be fully adopted across the police, CPS, magistrates’ courts, Crown Court and other criminal justice agencies.” By any standard this is an optimistic target, with numerous reports of glitches already, but the course is set. However unpalatable all this is to defence practitioners, it seems to be the future.

Meanwhile, ‘Crimeline’ reports that, with perfect timing, the MoJ has written to the working group of the Criminal Justice Efficiency Programme to confirm that it will not make any financial assistance available to help the defence invest in the IT required to work digitally.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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