21 May 2021

We need a better-connected justice system. The answer is to put the user at the centre.

Guest blog: Andy Lea, Director at KPMG as part of our #DigitalJustice2021 week.

I don’t need to make the case for a better-connected justice system; there are enough blogs admiring the problems in the justice system and I see little value in restating the potential benefits to service users, victims, officers/staff working in the system, and the public purse. 

But the justice system isn’t as connected as we want it to be.  And it’s not just in the UK.  I’ve been working closely with KPMG peers in the US, Australia and Canada to develop our view of a high performing justice continuum.  And I found that some of the issues we experience in the UK are magnified when you overlay local, state and federal government.  Here are three things that stood out to me from our work. 

Systemising culture, relationships and governance 

To be better connected, we need to recognise that organisational cultures and incentives in the justice system are different.  And it is culture and behaviours that ultimately make change happen. A few years ago I did some pro bono work with the police and probation and saw great improvements in sex offender management services, driven by the motivation of just two individuals in each organisation.  They made it happen through sheer determination and many of us will have seen similar examples. 

So whilst technology is critical to enabling change, leaders must focus the most effort on developing a shared purpose and thinking about how connections become systematic and survive the inevitable movement of staff in each partner organisation. 

Establishing the Reducing Reoffending Directorate and the regional reducing reoffending plans are amazing opportunities which the MoJ is creating for criminal justice (and wider) partners to do this.   I hope and expect great things to follow from this sort of joined-up thinking.  

Small steps with user centred design  

I find that a great way to make better connections is for justice organisations to start small and think about how common user experiences or journeys can be improved.  The journey maps we developed for sex offender management demonstrated the frustration for both officers and offenders when having to do multiple, similar risk assessments. 

Adopting low code/no code Software as a Service (SaaS) platform technologies can really help here.    They support the operationalisation of such journeys with intuitive, secure technologies in very little time.  I’d like to see more of this approach with criminal justice partners building confidence by quickly improving the user experience.  Even if the technology isn’t the long-term strategic choice, does it matter?  A lot will be learned to improve the strategic solution, short term benefits will have been delivered and the SaaS platform can we switched off. 

Segments of certain backlogs could be the right starting point to demonstrate the value of this approach.    

Data, data, data   

My US, Canadian and Australian colleagues are as one on the importance of data management and insights.   

Personal Online Data Stores (Pods) is a concept with enormous potential to support connected justice.  Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world-wide-web, is a strong advocate of an approach where individuals are in control of their data.  Greater Manchester is piloting this approach for dementia patients, where they or their carers can provide access to a range of data to GP, Community and Acute services.  They are doing the joining up and it should make their care better and more tailored to their needs 

How would that apply to justice? The idea would be that a victim or an offender controls his or her own data and provides access to justice agencies, enabling better provision of services and support suitable to their individual needs.  Imagine how much potential that provides to join up the justice system? And it helps us build trust with victims or offenders, so they are happier to share more of their data with justice agencies.   

I’d love to get your thoughts and hear about more examples of putting the user at the centre of a connected justice system. 

Andy Lea is a Director at KPMG.  He focuses on the justice and policing sectors and leads KPMG’s people consulting practice in the public sector.