CPS driving digital transformation across the criminal justice system

The Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) acting chief information officer (CIO) Paul Staff says it is driving the transition in the UK’s criminal justice system from “paper-based systems that have their roots in the 19th century” by “providing staff with the best equipment and software” to provide a quality public service.

Aug 28, 2014
By Paul Jacques
Picture: BRC

The Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) acting chief information officer (CIO) Paul Staff says it is driving the transition in the UK’s criminal justice system from “paper-based systems that have their roots in the 19th century” by “providing staff with the best equipment and software” to provide a quality public service.

“Digital evidential material such as statements, photographs and video will become the norm and will be used in the office, in court and on the go,” he said.

Mr Staff said significant strides had been made towards this in the past year but there was still some way to go.

“Introducing new technology into courts, including wi-fi in every court, will facilitate the smooth running of court proceedings, enabling all court users to work digitally by sharing common in-court presentation technology and data stores,” he explained.

“CPS staff will have direct access to a cross-case management system and information will also be shared electronically with victims, witnesses and the public where possible and appropriate.”

There is a concerted action to make the whole criminal justice system digital by 2016 as part of the Government’s Civil Service Reform plan, which says public services must exploit the benefits technology offers.

The CPS aims to create a digital service that “will eliminate unnecessary process steps and administration” in which:

•The digital file is the basis of all casework preparation, decision-making and presentation;

•Working digitally is the normal way of working for all staff – the receipt, processing and printing of paper will be an unusual exception;

•Staff are provided with the right tools to work effectively and efficiently in a digital way supporting both the Civil Service and CPS capability digital priority; and

•Engagement with victims and witnesses and the public is available through a digital medium.

Under a Digital Business Programme (DBP) strategy, Mr Staff says the CPS is looking “to embed long-lasting changes” in how it works, but this will require collaborative working with partner agencies and other key digitisation programmes such as:

•The Common Platform Programme which aims to deliver a unified way of working for HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) and CPS staff and others in the criminal case management process; and

•The Criminal Justice Efficiency Programme, which plans to get the criminal courts working digitally so breaking the reliance on inefficient paper-dependent working.

In a guest post on the Government Digital Service blog, Mr Staff said: “Taken together, these changes will achieve a different working experience – instead of delivering and receiving information as CPS does now, all criminal justice practitioners will access shared case information with appropriate access determined by need. It will be complete, accurate and up-to-date with all parties able to follow the progress of the case.”

He said implementation of the DBP strategy “will not be without its challenges”, but the continued involvement of staff across the business in the development and evaluation of business requirements, including testing key products, will help refine processes and systems.

“Making sure that staff have the right tools for the job will help achieve the aims of the strategy and bring about the new ways of working,” explained Mr Staff. “This means enhancing existing kit, identifying new digital solutions and providing the relevant local training.”

He said more specifically this involves:

•Equipping advocates with new mobile devices, all with modern operating systems, and re-conditioning and re-issuing the existing devices, so increasing flexible working across the organisation;

•Improving digital access to legal guidance;

•Improving existing IT platforms, systems and applications, including content management; and

•Providing wi-fi enabled mobile devices to allow CPS real-time access at magistrates’ courts when the criminal justice system ‘Efficiency’ programme rolls out this service (and at some courts in advanc

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