15 Nov 2022
by Andrew Wood

Why Google ads could provide real answers to the justice system’s data-sharing dilemma

A guest blog submitted by Andrew Wood, Director of Consulting at CGI UK for #DigitalJusticeWeek2022

I have a theory that society needs insight rather than data to get us out of the problems we face in delivering justice to victims of crime and fair processes for those accused of committing crime. I’m Andrew Wood, and today I’m talking about how innovative solutions can be used to deliver immediate benefit to society.

Where are we?

Data is at the heart of everything in today’s world. The organizations making up the Criminal Justice System (CJS) have recognized this for two decades and have been looking at the need to capture and share data in order to improve the system for the victims, witnesses and CJS workers.

CGI recently commissioned a report from Crest Advisory entitled Joining Up Justice with Real World Solutions. Through substantial research within the CJS, Crest has produced a series of recommendations to solve a number of key issues including data-sharing. These recommendations introduce establishing an umbrella data-sharing agreement between police and CPS, a data validation audit, a newly commissioned CJS data-sharing platform, and data sharing guidance and duty to share arrangements.

Is this a realistic dream?

These recommendations are sound, and should be considered closely, however I worry that despite efforts, true interoperability between agencies is still seen by many as a ‘pipe dream’. Currently data is held in “large, disparate systems” owned by different agencies including police, prosecutors, courts, prisons and probation services, and it’s frequently the most vulnerable people in the system, the victims and witnesses of crime, who are most severely impacted.

Insight not data

Data is wonderful, it offers huge promise, but I argue that the solutions we incubate and realise should bring insight rather than data and that’s for two reasons. First, data gives people more work to do in interpreting, manipulating and reporting on it. Secondly, presentation of insight helps people to be quickly informed and to make decisions in a timely manner.

Stroke treatment

An ideal example of this comes from medicine; Strokes are the fourth biggest killer of UK citizens, however there is a treatment available for some types of stroke that significantly improve outcomes for patients. New stroke triage tools are now available, powered by artificial intelligence, analyse images from existing CT scans to provide fast, reliable insight into best treatment. Specifically, this technology delivers in 30 seconds, what manual-reporting would achieve in 30 minutes, providing the critical insight that’s required for the clinicians to take action as early as possible.

Personalised adverts

Another example I would site is where people sometimes think their personal devices are listening to them because it seems they are recommend ads that are so eerily relevant to them. This isn’t the case, rather their personal profiles are associated with a myriad of personas that are used by technology companies to deliver targeted adverts. These personas are based on constant data collection from every day web browsing, then replicated in real time to service adverts that individuals may be interested in. It’s the fundamental mechanism of the internet, social media and browsing habits that creates revenue streams through advertising.

What does this mean for Justice you may ask?

As an example of how a simple, cost effective innovation can bring value to citizens, I suggest that we utilise existing in our everyday lives to build real insights and profiles of the very people who seek justice. We can, and should, use the existing insight from advertising to signpost vulnerable people to government or third sector support, breaking the cycle of victimisation. Could we go further and target personalised, locally specific, interventions to individuals at risk of criminalisation to turn them down a different path? Could we harness this technology to learn insights in criminality from data at the CPS, and use this data in crime prevention or better management of re-offending? Put short, can we facilitate improvement in the system without having to share raw data?

Clearly this is just one idea, and while it should be explored further, this blog is primarily a call to action for the reader.  We all agree the need for insight from cross justice data silos to get us out of the challenges we face.  I want to spark a debate about how technology can be used to drive insight and innovation, changing outcomes for citizens now via small, discrete steps rather than waiting for a nirvana delivered that may take a decade more to arrive.

I want to hear from you so we can create an easier, more accessible, more effective, user friendly justice system.


Andrew Wood

Andrew Wood

Director of Consulting, CGI UK