08 Dec 2023
by Geeta Verma

Digitising Justice for People

Innovation is a critical element for the evolution of the legal system. It can enhance the efficiency, transparency, and accessibility of the justice system.

Geeta previously worked for the Ministry of Justice and implemented digitisation in courts across the UK, particularly video hearings and digital court schedule and listings. Having gained an understanding for legal proceedings and government initiatives to drive digitalisation, Geeta now works as a consultant at BidCraft to support organisations bid for government contracts. These contracts include digitalisation initiatives and enable organisations to supply their products and services to government departments, such as the Ministry of Justice, to achieve the continued digitalisation of the justice system.

Innovation is a critical element for the evolution of the legal system. It can enhance the efficiency, transparency, and accessibility of the justice system.

Change in the justice system is paramount today, due to the backlog of cases from COVID, the over-population in prisons, and the inconsistency found in sentencing. To drive digital innovation in the justice system would promote fair outcomes and increase the public trust because cases would be resolved efficiently; providing justice where needed, and public would trust in the justice system appropriately disciplining offenders.

Digital innovation is driving change in the UK justice system to help those working in the system and the general population to see results, obtain efficient access to judicial resource, and benefit from cost-saving.

Remote hearings to provide access to justice

Developing and introducing video hearings for courts throughout England, Scotland, and Wales during the pandemic, thousands of court hearings were resolved via video calls to claimants and applicants, and these have allowed the judiciary to help the general population in both civil and criminal cases. For example, the justice system has ensured that those vulnerable members of our society, requiring hearings to renew benefits, including financial or home care, have been able to renew such access to resources without the undue stress of worrying about getting to court during lockdown and social distancing. The continuation of video hearings, enables the justice system to reduce the backlog of cases since the pandemic, allows cost-saving for both the courts and the hearing participants, (including applicants and their legal support), and supports vulnerable claimants, possibly fearful or anxious of entering an overwhelming court, to virtually attend their hearing.

Enhanced prison technology to ensure peace of mind and peace in society

Understanding that UK prisons, particularly male prisons, are over-populated according to their certified normal accommodation (CNA) (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/oct/15/two-thirds-prisons-officially-overcrowded-england-wales), there is a serious concern over the safety of Persons in Prison (PiP), prison staff, and the general population.

Over-population in prisons results in challenges for prison staff to safely manage each PiP, and this has resulted in serious injuries sustained by both PiP and prison staff. To ensure the human rights of PiP, and prison staff, including physical well-being and mental health, advanced digitisation in prisons will support the management of the over-population, such measures include:

  • Personal wearables for each prison staff member, which is centrally monitored to see their real-time location, and heart rate, including an alarm for prison staff to activate in case of threat of or actual injury,
  • AI technology to monitor and assess the behaviour and/or emotions of PiP to support their time in custodial sentence and enable prison staff to accurately manage PiP with safety,
  • AI technology providing learning and rehabilitation tools to PiP to allow them opportunity to rehabilitate and safely return to society

Due to such over-population, some convictions that would ordinarily result in custodial sentences have seen offenders released into society with community sentencing because “judges have been told not to jail serious criminals, including rapists, because there is no room for them” (https://europeanconservative.com/articles/news/rapists-spared-jail-as-uk-prisons-full/). This creates societal concerns of safety and emphasises the inconsistency in sentencing, some that has been deemed dangerous as well as unreasonable.

To support the general population in the knowledge that they are protected from serious offenders, digitalisation in the justice system could include:

  • AI supported risk assessment of people on parole to improve the accuracy of safety in releasing them from prison,
  • AI technology to support the judiciary in sentencing to access evidence-based and/or benchmarks for specific offences

The justice system is the foundation of every society, and it is a human right for every member of society to access justice efficiently and safely. By recognizing the challenges and opportunities, technology solutions can transform legal proceedings for the better.


Geeta Verma

Geeta Verma

Consultant, BidCraft