The government’s ’digital by default’ missive is being levied at the justice system
The government has announced a £1 billion programme to completely shift the UK’s justice system from paper-based processes to digital technologies.
While some elements of the programme are underway, the government’s Transforming Our Justice System report noted its ambitions to drive a “wholesale shift to accessing justice digitally” to ensure it makes better use of modern IT and enables online access to cases across the justice system.
“We will provide online access by developing a single online system for starting and managing cases across the criminal, civil, family and tribunal jurisdictions,” the report said.
“This will help people understand their rights and what options are open to them. Less visible to the public will be the widespread introduction of robust document and case management systems, to replace the highly inefficient paper filing systems of today – measures that will improve efficiency throughout.”
Digital by default
The report noted that with such an IT overhaul, it expects some cases to be handled entirely online and virtually rather than rely on physical courtrooms, but in the short term the government aims for every case to be started online, even if it ends up in physical court.
“The first is our aim for all cases to be started online, whether or not they are scheduled for the traditional system or for online resolution. The second will be the completion of some cases entirely online, which will be much more convenient for everyone involved,” it said.
The report noted than many criminal courts already provide Wi-Fi access to legal professionals and casework is transferred digitally between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, while prosecutors can present magistrates’ court cases using laptops and video screens.
Yet under the government’s ambition to make the public sector ‘digital by default’ further change in the justice system is on its way, with the goal of creating a system that allows the management of criminal cases from charge to conviction to be conducted completely online by linking courts to the criminal justice system.
With this goal the government is aiming to do away with old paper-based processes and the cut out pseudo digital ways of working whereby people scan pieces of paper or cart evidence around on CCTV tapes and CDs.
The overall mission of this digital transformation is to make the justice system more transparent, accessible and efficient through cutting down on bureaucracy.
The government’s digital transformation goals are ambitious, with the Government Digital Service (GDS) in place to ensure Whitehall and the wider public sector over from old IT and analogue systems to shared digital services.
However, a recent shake-up in GDS’ leadership raises questions over how it can achieve its lofty goals, though the likes of the NHS push on with digital transformation regardless.