Leveson calls for justice system to make better use of technology

Technologies like body-worn cameras, video conferencing and managing cases online instead of paper could improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system, according to Lord Justice Leveson.

In a report released today, Leveson said the criminal justice system was "inefficient, time consuming and as a result very expensive".

Leveson emphasised the central role of the Ministry of Justice's £160 million 'Common Platform Programme' to digitise courtrooms, which will enable most, if not all, criminal justice work to be done online. However, he aslo noted that court staff are not adequately trained to use the technologies they have today, which have often been introduced without proper consultation.

The aim of the Common Platform Programme is to create a single online platform for information on cases going through the criminal justice system, accessible to all parties involved.

Leveson described it as an "essential element" of MoJ plans to improve the justice system and said it has the potential to make "fundamental changes".

However the successful delivery of the project is in doubt, according to Whitehall projects watchdog the Major Projects Authority (MPA).

In its latest annual review the MPA said the common platform project had 'major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas' and needed 'urgent action' to address them.

Leveson recommended a number of changes, including better training on how to use technology for courts staff and proper research and consultation before new technology is introduced. He said the changes will not require legislation and will "streamline the way in which the business of the criminal courts is conducted".

He said technology could help to manage case progression out of court far more often, and said wherever possible expert and witnesses should be encouraged to give evidence by video link instead of physically attending court.

"Rather than seeking to bolt procedures onto a system initially designed for the 19th century (as has been the practice for the last 50 years), I have tried to identify ways in which our current procedures can be adapted to make the best use of the skills, resources, IT and systems available," Leveson said.

Leveson was asked by the Lord Chief Justice, in consultation with justice minister Chris Grayling, to review the efficiency of the court system in February 2014.

In response to the report Grayling said: "We are determined that our justice system delivers the right outcomes for victims of crime and the public as a whole, and we have made great strides in recent years - not least through smarter use of technology, and joined-up working.

"I look forward to working with the senior judiciary and other leaders across the system to drive further improvements."

Image credit: iStock/OJO Images


Charlotte Jee

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