Digital Justice – Transforming the end to end criminal justice system

Arif Harbott
Arif Harbott

Digital Justice is investigating what a joined up justice system would look like agnostic of organisational boundaries. It uses of end to end service design to imagine a justice system of the future.

Digital Justice was born from some simple questions:

  • What if data could be shared and accessed across the entire justice system?
  • What if the end to end system could be seamlessly joined up?
  • What if you could reduce inefficiencies and give citizens access to swifter, fairer justice?

It is important to think outside of organisational boundaries, because that’s how users see the system. Users talk about being arrested instead of dealing with the “Police”, refer to going to court, rather than dealing with “HM Courts and Tribunals Service”; they talk about going to prison, rather than being part of a “National Offender Management Service” process.

We started with a discovery…

The team immersed themselves in the justice system to investigate the user need. They travelled up and down the country, visiting prisons, observing courtrooms,  sitting in police stations and interviewing victims.

What they found was a complex proliferation of silos and systems.

This shouldn’t be surprising as the justice system has never actually been designed. It’s grown organically layer by layer over many years.

Mapping the end to end justice system

Our findings allowed us to create the first map of the entire criminal justice system, as experienced by its users.

We use this map to align the many programmes across justice.

It gives us a bird’s-eye view of the system, to understand the overlaps, gaps or opportunities across organisational boundaries.

It also helps us spot common patterns and then build platforms to solve common problems. This creates the benefit of building solutions once and then deploy them many times.

Map of the Criminal Justice System
Map of the Criminal Justice System

The vision for Digital Justice

The vision is:

  • A digitally enabled end-to-end justice system to reduce manual processes and inefficiencies.
  • A joined-up user experience that guides the citizen from start to finish.
  • For data to be shared and accessed, as a foundation to deliver justice more efficiently.

Recommendations for transformation

We have two main areas of focus:

  1. Triage – improving the front door to justice
  2. Data – access to the right data at the right time

Triage – improving the front door to justice

Triage is about directing the citizen to the right place, first time to reduce citizen frustration.

In addition, that unnecessary demand does not reach the justice system in order to minimise Police and Court time.

Idea 1: Direct my call
Greater Manchester Police receive 4,000 calls per day — of which 40% are redirected. This represents wasted time for the call centre and frustration for the citizen.

Make a plea

Direct my call would ask you a few simple questions and direct you the right authority based on the nature of your request and your location.

Idea 2: Report a crime online
A single reporting for low-level crimes, such as bike or mobile theft. Users would fill out a simple form and submit evidence digitally.

The citizen could then track the status of their issue and understand when it is resolved.

Idea 3: Make a plea
Previously if you wanted to plead guilty you had to go to court.  We’ve created a tool where you can plead guilty and pay a fine online.

This is much faster and easier for the citizen. And also frees up court time to focus on more complex legal cases.

Data disruption – the right data at the right time

If we get it right, data access could be the single most transformative change in the justice system.

The effects from unlocking data in legacy systems would be enormous.  This data could enable better local decision-making, be used to keep citizens informed, and provide access to better insight.

Justice Data Flows
Criminal justice data map: showing how data is exchanged between different parts of the criminal justice system

Idea 1: Data principles and standards
We’re developing high level data principles designed to encourage organisations to share data without the need to mandate formats.

The focal point will be data stewards who have a responsibility to both protect and share data in equal measure. The stewards will encourage higher standards for data: use of APIs, free-to-use, self-service, up-to-date, consistent.

Idea 2: Break legacy systems into microservices
Many systems in Justice are monoliths. Large applications that contain many functions where it’s hard to change one part, without affecting the whole.

We propose dividing these ‘monoliths’ into a more modular, loosely coupled architecture based on microservices.  Microservices do one thing well, and an architecture for the justice system will comprise hundreds of microservices. Over time the network of microservices will allow us to slowly decommission the legacy monoliths.

Idea 3: Data registers
A microservice architecture would create the added benefit of single canonical stores of data or registers. Each register would contain a single source of the truth.  This removes the need to store the same datasets in multiple systems.

We are only at the start of our journey

We are only scratching the surface of the opportunity and there are many hurdles that we need to tackle together.

The mission is give citizens access to swifter, fairer justice and we need to move closer to this outcome every day.

Digital Justice – Transforming the end to end criminal justice system
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