Digital prosecution and joined-up justice

With prosecution now being conducted from laptops, and a deadline nearing for a more digital justice system, police are under pressure to move towards paperless communication, something Greater Manchester Police is achieving.

Feb 16, 2012
By Paul Jacques

With prosecution now being conducted from laptops, and a deadline nearing for a more digital justice system, police are under pressure to move towards paperless communication, something Greater Manchester Police is achieving.

Electronic case files are central to the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) Transforming Through Technology (T3) initiative, which is moving the service from paper-based processes to a fully digital way of working. The preparation and sharing of electronic case files in the criminal justice system (CJS) has long been recognised as an opportunity for saving money as well as improving efficiency and speeding up case progression.

April 2012 is the deadline for delivering a digital CJS and the pressure is on for police forces to move towards this vision of paperless communication.

The impending deadline has divided UK forces into three specific groups: those challenged by the deadline which are most likely to ‘watch and wait’ and in the meantime deliver a basic ‘scan and email’ response; those which are claiming that while most (non-complex) documents will be available electronically they face significant resource and bandwidth limitations; and lastly the most confident group – a handful of forces which have already implemented e-case files ahead of the deadline.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) was the first force to fully implement true digital working with e-case files. GMP has been moving towards a digital working environment since 2002, and the ICIS custody management and case file build system from STL Technologies has enabled all the associated documentation for a case to be captured electronically. As long ago as 2008, ICIS started successfully sending pre-charge, post-charge and summons electronically to the CPS. In November 2011, the ICIS two-way interface (TWIF) with the CPS went live, five months ahead of schedule and exchanged over 30,000 messages in the first week.

All GMP’s CPS case file memos, action plans and charging decisions are returned directly to ICIS which allows officers and prosecutors to exchange information about defendants, witnesses and victims quickly and effectively. The CPS can also send case status updates to GMP reducing the amount of unnecessary file work in the event of an unexpected guilty plea.

Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor from the North West Area, said: “The two-way digital link between the CPS and police case management systems helps cut down on duplication and improves the speed and accuracy with which we can exchange information about criminal cases. It will enable the CPS and Greater Manchester Police to work together more efficiently and it is a vital step in creating a fully digital criminal justice system. The fact that we have achieved this milestone first in Greater Manchester is a testament to the collaboration and close working that exists between the CPS, GMP and the courts in our collective drive for criminal justice efficiency.”

Assistant Chief Constable Dawn Copley, Greater Manchester Police, added: “With interfaces to all key criminal justice partners, GMP’s case management system is the first to achieve this milestone, demonstrating its viability and value. The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) has identified GMP as an exemplar force in respect of our readiness to move to fully digital criminal justice working by April 2012. The ultimate aim of all our work to develop digital solutions is to play our part in streamlining and speeding up the justice system for the benefit of victims and witnesses. We look forward to working with our partners on further initiatives that will enable processes to be streamlined further, reduce bureaucracy and overall make the system faster and more efficient for all concerned.”

STL Technologies Ltd

Bury St Edmunds,

Suffolk IP32 7AB

Tel: 01284 778 600

Fax: 01284 778 778

Email: sales@stl.co.uk

Web: www.stl.co.uk

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