A common governance structure is vital to delivering real CJS change
When we talk about the Criminal Justice System of the future we imagine a system where common data follows a case and its participants from the point of where an offence is committed, through charging by police, prosecution through the courts, time served in prison before being released out on parole.
Now imagine this being supported by the technology and governance that allows the justice system to be better connected end to end, helping to identify risks early and reduce them, assist joint decision making and result in a system working in partnership for the benefit of society.
Agencies across the CJS are working hard to realise this vision and through a report that CGI have commissioned with Crest Advisory, CJS practitioners have provided their views on how this could be accelerated by recognising the need for a whole system approach to connected justice.
Joining Up Justice
For two decades CGI has helped individual agencies in the UK justice system adopt new technology and employ modern ways of working to transform the way justice is administered across England and Wales. Yet for the CJS as a whole, it is widely recognised that a decade of austerity, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and digital advances have left a system straining under the pressure.
The report from Crest Advisory entitled Joining Up Justice with Real World Solutions cuts right to the heart of the problems, and comes up with its own series of recommendations aimed at delivering real change.
As the report reveals, the “willingness of each agency to work together is fragmented – in part because agencies do not have the resources to implement the changes they would like to”.
All agencies have individually achieved success but to achieve more, the research suggests that the CJS must embrace not only uniform data, but a uniform approach to funding and coordinating.
This whole system approach to future transformation, the report argues, will enable agencies to shift their focus from siloed benefits realisation and deliver change for the betterment of the system and society as a whole.
This is an insurmountable ask for today’s CJS, which has seen budgets squeezed and caseloads soar, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why these two fundamental issues must be addressed.
Firstly, the Government must unify the CJS under common governance structures. A unified CJS governance structure would be able to set uniform objectives which ensure accountability across the whole system, through the implementation of a consistent and long-term strategy which reaches across all agencies.
Efficiency and effectiveness
This together with a unified oversight structure, that represents both the voice of CJS service users, and works with inspectorates to ensure that its multiple agencies are held to account, information is being shared efficiently and effectively, so independent scrutiny can be conducted.
That ultimately benefits the individual – harnessing a properly joined-up CJS process that is consistent and coordinated in its response.
But to achieve this requires significant investment – which as pointed out above, individual agencies could be initially reluctant to agree to if they are not the direct beneficiary.
Therefore, and secondly, there needs to be a primary convenor for innovation in the CJS, provided with their own CJS Innovation Fund aimed at boosting technological innovation and cooperation right across the CJS.
The report believes that the Ministry of Justice should be designated as the primary convenor. Its Digital Strategy 2025 has shown that the MoJ has already taken a deep dive into how this can be achieved.
The strategy highlighted how, over the next three years, a focus on greater flexibility, the need to be more data-driven and focusing on building services around the people who use them will “ensure that all our services are truly user led, efficient and nimble. This would be achieved by developing “policy, processes and digital services that meet the needs of our users”.
Not only that, but the MoJ would be best placed, through its strong relationships with agencies such as the police, to drive through a CJS Innovation Fund an incentive for these agencies to work together on technology projects for their mutual benefit.
Cohesion and innovation
There should be criteria for funding to drive further incentives for partner cooperation, driving improvements at a local level as well as embracing broader innovation.
Connected Justice is the key to a more cohesive CJS that harnesses the appropriate technology to unlock efficiency gains, drives true integration, and therefore eases current pressures on a struggling system.
Above all, it will provide true justice for all who look to the CJS to achieve it – end to end.