18 Nov 2022
by David Watts

Why banking’s Conversational AI technology can bring real justice to all users of the CJS

A guest blog submitted by David Watts, Director of Consulting from CGI for #DigitalJusticeWeek2022

What should the Criminal Justice System of tomorrow look like? And what can be done today to drive the change needed for it to become a reality?

I want to end Digital Justice Week by urging people to be bold when it comes to emerging tech. To provide the answers to the above, we need technological change, and we need it now.

Here I hope to spark a debate, one that can put us on the road to a better future for the CJS so no-one suffers a poor deal when it comes to achieving real justice.

Poor experience

Sadly, we don’t need to look hard to find examples of poor experience of the CJS and there are many high-profile campaigners fighting daily to challenge the system to change it for the better.

But despite the campaigning, the CJS is currently not equipped to respond. Squeezed budgets through a decade of austerity, plus the effects of COVID-19 leave the majority of citizens at the mercy of a highly fragmented, frustrating system.

There are victims (and witnesses and defendants) right now who have no idea about their rights at certain points of the process. They have no idea of the status of their case, how it’s progressing, court decisions, or where they can access the relevant support services.

Studies by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have found that nearly one in three court and tribunal ‘citizen users’ suffered a poor experience of the CJS, based on a lack of available information, accessibility and openness. Put simply, they weren’t being listened to.

We need a more empathetic CJS that communicates with citizens far more effectively, finding out their wants and needs, guiding them through the process and putting them in touch with the best support they can receive.

The rhetoric of a citizen focused Criminal Justice System must become a reality.

Source of frustration

How can this be achieved? Ideally, the answer is more human-to-human contact, through dedicated support workers and scaled services but as we already know, the money and resources are not there So how could technology fill the void?

An example of a potential solution comes from a rather unlikely place: banking. My CGI colleague, Cheryl Allebrand, recently blogged about the response of financial services providers failure to keep up with customer service expectations.

This was a huge source of frustration for customers fed up with waiting to talk to an advisor that they were actively changing banks.

The banks’ solution; Virtual Assistants (VA), Conversational AI and Natural Language Understanding. Through contact centres, powered by AI which allowed machines to understand, process and respond to what a human was asking of it, it allowed banks to understand and interact with customers – turning the dynamic from reactive to proactive.

It meant rather than focus on data alone, the VAs gained the insight to create customer personas. By understanding their customer they could, for instance, know when to issue simple reminders that they’re about to reach their overdraft limit.

But they can also deal with far more complex tasks, such as understanding why they’d missed a mortgage payment, recommending actions such as seeking a payment holiday, then helping them through the process of uploading documents and applying for one, even carrying over memory between sessions so it can recognise why a customer might be calling instead of forcing them to re-explain themselves each time.

Huge benefits

This approach allows customers to interact with organisations just like they would with a human member of staff. The result is huge proactive benefits, much more customer satisfaction delivered by cost-effective and scalable new technology.

I firmly believe that, if employed by the CJS, the experience of citizen users could be transformed.

Managing a case through to conclusion is a constant, complex balancing act – with participants ranging from, victims, witnesses and defendants through to police, prosecution, court employees, judges, juries, and prisoner escorting and custody services.

Conversational AI can provide a level of responsiveness that can develop and execute the proactive interactions needed across all the participants of a case, meeting and acting on their needs and heading off potential simple problems that can knock the whole thing off kilter – leading to delays and stress for those involved.

These are all hypotheticals. But it can become a reality. By using Conversational AI to keep participants better – and more proactively – informed, by being attuned to their needs, expectations and vulnerabilities, this can feed much more confidence into public perceptions of the courts, and ultimately the CJS as a whole.

Driver of real change

I can’t go into any further detail as I’ve reached my blog word limit, but I would appreciate it if you shared your comments. As I said at the start, bold discussions can lead to bold ideas – and be the driver of real change.


David Watts

David Watts

Director Consulting , CGI

David Watts, who has worked in justice for over 20 years, is Director Consulting Expert for CGI, helping deliver digital transformation projects in justice.