Digital Courts - transformation of the courts system for the future
Courts are a very historic and traditional part of an amazing overall justice system. To be able to keep things moving through this system effectively, the ability to leverage existing IT and new technology advancements is essential to improve the end to end court process and bring benefits including faster decisions and therefore less impact on citizens and families for better rehabilitation, and a reduction in unnecessary court dates and backlogs and ultimately reoffending.
The ability to do things such as use evidence in court which doesn’t need to be physically brought there with the reduction in all the associated cost and resource that goes with that, protect vulnerable witnesses and streamline court appearances with video technology, plus provide jurors with tablets cataloging case evidence and information, is what really feeds into the Digital Courts of today and the first steps we’ve seen to the transformation of the courts system of tomorrow.
Working closely with various parts of the justice system I’ve seen some great examples of using new technology to apply efficiencies. Traditionally a stenographer would need to be present in any court for transcription of all proceedings. Stenography is still the most widely used form of transcription, however Digital Courts are now able to utilise ‘virtual stenographers’ today which securely stores and optimises court audio recordings, making them available in real-time to authorised staff and administrators and accessed quickly and easily thereafter.
Since 2016, HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have been introducing new technology to modernise the justice process. The approach has been phased, with initial improvements to infrastructure and basic services followed by a wider range of online and ‘enabling’ services, to replace paper-based or antiquated systems. To deliver the latest phase of technology reforms, HMCTS needed to connect their legacy infrastructure to a new cloud environment, to support the deployment of virtual desktops. As a cloud-built solution, virtual desktops bring HMCTS the flexibility to adapt working practices on-demand, something that not only improves operational efficiency in general, but will prove crucial in a post-COVID working world. HMCTS have been able to move, or in some cases eliminate, costly IT processes, reducing the amount of taxpayer money spent on maintaining these old systems. When the time is right, remaining back end functions can also be migrated to cloud if required, ultimately delivering on the promises made in the HMCTS reform programme, to completely modernise the administration of justice.
The key to being able to confidently embrace new technology now and in the future is to have a secure foundation for transformation. Courts are naturally dealing with very sensitive data. By introducing new technology, there’s a potential to increase the attack surface for cyber criminals to exploit. Video links must be secure and the use of the internet may not be the right solution with no SLA on performance. Unauthorised system access, mass data loss and complexity of IT networking are just a few of the risks that can come with this new approach and must be mitigated against.
New security measures must be taken and security policies and practices must be updated to conform with this new digital model and to prevent attacks from happening. With a secure connectivity foundation in place courts and the wider justice system can focus on building citizen facing applications for improvements and efficiencies, that can be deployed in a fraction of the time, with secure links to legacy systems, and leveraging visibility of the entire ecosystem to boost security, efficiency and value for the citizens that rely on them.