Digital Justice: Modernising the Criminal Justice System conference

September 22, 2015 by No Comments | Category Digital Public Services,

This is a post by Kate Saunderson, one of our user researchers.

Are we on-route to digital transformation within our Justice system in Scotland? Some of the team recently had the opportunity to explore this topic at the Digital Justice: Modernising the Criminal Justice System conference. My key takeaways: users first (not technology), a digital strategy without relationships will fail, cyber crime is everyone’s problem.

Users first (not technology)
Conversations about digital transformation can often jump straight to technology; that is not the case with the Digital Justice strategy. Led by Elspeth MacDonald, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice Division, the digital strategy sits within Government’s ‘Making Justice Work’ programme. The strategy’s agenda is to shape the change of the Scottish justice system with the vision of transforming citizens experiences with the Justice System. Elspeth believes users should be at the heart of that transformation, ensuring change is always led by user needs.

What are user needs? User needs are needs faced by those using services or products. In the justice system, service users exist on a spectrum; in the system, in contact with the system, and prevented by barriers from engaging with the system. To ensure change is led by user needs, we need to identify who the service users are at each stage and work with them to understand their current experiences and needs. To ensure change can happen, we need to identify the stakeholders and work with them to understand their current experiences and needs. For everyone involved, we have to focus on understanding experiences on many levels, including service delivery, ICT, digital access, digital education, employee recruitment and retention. If we want to transform the citizen’s experience, we have to make time to listen, observe, identify needs, and develop relationships and trust. We need to build with, not for, otherwise we will create a digital version of existing processes, which leaves out the key step of transformation.

Two presentations highlighted the spectrum of service users: Deryck Michelson, Head of IT at the Scottish Prison Service, talked to us about the role of digital in preparing prisoners for release, covering the visitation process, digital skills and the booking system; Claire Lumsdaine, Head of Digital at Victim Support Scotland, talked to us about the how digital initiatives can transform victims’ journeys within the Justice system.

A digital strategy without relationships will fail
Having a strategy is about creating a focus but you still have to decide which change is the right one to make. Elspeth outlines a strategy that puts users first, and has appropriate (and secure) data sharing. It is clear that the Justice Digital Strategy team are not content with digitising their current processes. They know, if they were to take that direction, they would not achieve their strategic aims. This is where relationships and trust come into play, as existing services will have to adapt to the change. If they don’t know why, implementing that change will hit a series of barriers including cultural barriers, technological barriers, financial barriers and digital skills gaps.

Two projects highlighted the spectrum of digital change. Elspeth MacDonald and Claire Lumsdaine talked about our site. As a digital service which provides citizens with a new way to access Scottish public services, our site is based on their needs and creates journeys through information not constrained by service provider offerings. At present our site covers diverse situations from home repossession to being a victim of crime and both Claire and Elspeth talked about how our site can support the Justice Digital Strategy.

Chief Inspector Nick Topping from Police Scotland talked to us about a body-worn camera pilot project in Aberdeen, which explored the potential of body-worn cameras. The project explored the effects on criminal conviction rate, evidence gathering and changes within the wider criminal justice process.

Cyber crime is everyone’s problem
Our justice system is no longer framed by national borders and criminality has become a global concern for Scottish citizens. We are now in a position that we are more likely to become a victim of crime online that offline.

Detective Superintendent Steven Wilson from Police Scotland talked to us about the reality that the police force face with when tackling cyber-crime in Scotland and it’s impact on the justice system. Critical challenges include jurisdiction, outdated legal practice and lack of officers with digital skills. One approach underway is a strategy to hire ‘Online Specials’.

The challenge
We will fail to achieve the potential of digital transformation if we only digitise current processes, we need to imagine the future with citizens. We need to engage with stakeholders to identify points of change. We need to design services that meet the needs of both parties. We need to define technology solutions to achieve those solutions.

Check out the tweets from the day
This is an overview of the ‘Digital Justice: Modernising the Criminal Justice System’ conference held on 3rd September at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.
You can view the overview of the event here: Digital Justice: Modernising the Criminal Justice System conference.

We’ll be sharing updates on these features, and much more on social, so follow the team via @mygovscot on Twitter for more updates. Want to comment? Let us know below!

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