Pilot identifies EWS savings

Trials of electronic witness statements (EWS), which generated encouraging cash and efficiency savings at early adopter forces, concluded at the end of last year and feedback from key stakeholders and the data collected is now being reviewed to develop an EWS national standard designed to help speed up and streamline the criminal justice process.

Jan 26, 2012
By Paul Jacques
Graeme Biggar

Trials of electronic witness statements (EWS), which generated encouraging cash and efficiency savings at early adopter forces, concluded at the end of last year and feedback from key stakeholders and the data collected is now being reviewed to develop an EWS national standard designed to help speed up and streamline the criminal justice process.

Forcewide annual cashable saving in excess of £300,000 have been identified by Avon and Somerset Constabulary following the conclusion of its electronic witness statements (EWS) pilot. Frontline efficiency savings of 53 hours were also realised during last year’s 15-week pilot in South Gloucestershire.

Officers took statements using their mobile computers and then captured signatures using the touchscreen and stylus. This information was then securely and automatically transmitted for onward processing in near real-time using the built-in HSPDA (high-speed downlink packet access) modem.

In its pilot closure report, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, concluded: “The total annual potential cashable saving if EWS is rolled out across the force would be £323,943 due to a reduction in need for back-office functions. The potential cashable savings are significant and very relevant in the current climate, however, the benefits of EWS in terms of process improvements that save time and allow ease of access to statements must not be overlooked.”

The creation of EWS delivered a range of benefits throughout the criminal justice process, including:

•improving and speeding up the service for victims and witnesses;

•saving time in creating and processing statements for frontline officers;

•reducing the requirement of back office resources;

•providing faster and easier access to statements for authorised personnel;

•automatically distributing signed statements to criminal justice partners, potentially in real-time;

•increasing the integrity, audit trail and authenticity of statements through a ‘lock down’ at the point of being taken.

Officers took EWS using a Panasonic Toughbook laptop and HeliMedia’s Form Patrol® software, which allowed them to capture an electronic statement and signature. Both a master copy and working copy with the attached meta data was created to authenticate each statement and ensure evidential integrity.

Form Patrol enables any paper form, ticket or document to be converted into an electronic version that can be automatically processed and sent to multiple backend systems.

Once a form, ticket, or document is complete, it can be synchronised wirelessly to the back office, saved for synchronisation at the end of a shift, or printed and issued on the spot. Any number of forms can be completed on a single mobile device, such as a Blackberry, PDA or in-car computer.

Users are able to search local or national databases to help identify people, vehicles, jobs or simply to find information to assist them to complete tasks in the field.

Although Form Patrol uses wireless networks to perform searches and send forms, officers can create, issue and print forms without any network coverage, meaning they can keep on working in poor signal areas.

HeliMedia also provided management tools so that users could view, download and transfer statements into the Guardian Crime and Case Preparation systems.

The pilot was part of a cross-criminal justice digital evidence project being run by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) to help forces meet the Government target of having a fully electronic case file by April 2012. This includes reviewing the management of digital evidence (see PP268, Speeding up justice, pp24-25).

The aim of digital evidence pilot was to test the benefits of police officers on the beat using laptops and personal digital assistants (PDAs) to record information rather than pen and paper.

Hampshire Constabulary was the other ‘early adopter’ force for EWS, while Surrey Police – using pr

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