From Paper Chase to Cyber-Space: How New Communications Technology is Transforming Criminal Justice in Jersey

11/10/2016 — Dr Helen Miles

The aim of this case study is to describe the journey from paper chase to cyberspace and explain how the Criminal Justice Department has overcome these challenges by applying state of the art technology to:

Background

Jersey has a unique criminal justice system that is based upon common law and ancient legislation. Current rules were written in 1864, when technology didn’t even include typewriters or ballpoint pens, and has created a paper-based process for the disclosure of documents. In today’s technology age, the rules by which the department must operate, for example, that all written depositions made to the Courts must be signed by the person purporting to make them, are no longer conducive to a modern jurisdiction.

The Criminal Justice Department (CJD) is the ‘hub’ of the justice system and it is the department’s role to collate and co-ordinate the ‘disclosure file’ that is required for every offence. As a result, information about every offence committed in Jersey travels from the Police Force, through the Department and onwards to external legal partners and the courts.

The disclosure file is referred to as a ‘bundle’ and there is no such thing as a typical bundle. Each one contains the material necessary to prove a prosecution and in some cases it also includes unused material as well. This could be about 15 sheets of paper for a run of the mill prosecution in the Magistrates Court and then run to hundreds of box files for a serious offence.

The bundle could include audio tapes, DVDs, paperwork, photographs, transcripts, medical reports, intoxyliser print outs, criminal history, offence listings and any other manner of documentation.

The CJD before…

Historically, every piece of material included in a bundle was reproduced at least three, but mostly five times: once for the prosecutor, once for the court and once for the defence. As there is an ongoing duty of disclosure, each time the bundle is added to, the process starts again and so one of the department’s challenges was keeping track of the paper, particularly when there may be 200 ongoing cases at any one time. On average, in 2011 one photocopier/printer in the CJD disclosure unit was producing 24,000 sheets of paper per month.

In addition, the Police Force have a particular challenge when it comes to Information Security. Although Jersey police are part of the national police network, the classification of Jersey’s data means that it is not possible to email documents to parties who are not joined to the States of Jersey network. As a consequence, CJD were delivering the bundles either by hand or requiring the legal firms to collect them in person.

This method of disclosure was both expensive and insecure. Once the material was handed over the department had no control over it whatsoever and over the years there have been stories of paperwork turning up in the most obscure places including a pub, being read by a legal assistant on the No 15 bus and by an Advocate’s cleaner.

Problem solving…

Part of the CJD’s commitment to improving customer service was to establish a regular defence forum to engage with lawyers and better understand their needs. This forum very clearly uncovered that:

The States of Jersey Police has a very small, but very dynamic IT team which includes two developers and infrastructure experts. Using sound business analysis techniques, this team worked with the system users to really understand what was needed to create a more streamlined and practical process. Importantly, any solution had to integrate seamlessly with our highly sophisticated and bespoke case management system known as Viewpoint.

Initially the answer to seemed clear: implement a government secure intranet (GSI) to provide a secure platform for sharing information. However, the detailed analysis showed that this option was a red herring and instead what was needed was “secure high-volume file transfer” and a GSI would not deliver that.

Additional thought was given to the implications for the management of usernames and passwords for multiple internal and external users to ensure it was possible to:

Implementing a solution…

The IT team sourced a particular product known as a ‘Boole Server’ that would meet all the CJD’s performance requirements as well as current and future activity levels. Boole is a complete protection system that prevents the improper use of confidential files and keeps all documents under constant control. Data is always protected, continuously encrypted and always accessible and can be shared securely using differentiated access rights.

Development work was undertaken to integrate all the systems to create a continuous process so that the material is either created in, or uploaded to, Viewpoint, the case management system. Staff then mark the material to send to Boole, check a box of recipients and finally click a disclose button that sends a secure link to the recipients. Recipients then click on the link and are given access to the material. The entire process is seamless.

The CJD established a pilot scheme with Bedell and Cristin Advocates so that instead of printing paper files all witness statements and police reports were transferred via Boole. The staff at Bedell were immediately enthusiastic about the new system because they received information in a timely fashion and their in-house administration was reduced.

The system was so successful that it wasn’t too long before all the legal firms joined up and CJD had reduced its printing from 24,000 sheets to 8,000 sheets per month.

Embedding the solution…

CJD staff rapidly identified that there were opportunities to do things differently. Staff at all levels were involved in redesigning internal systems and processes so there was no more standing at the photocopier for hours on end, stapling statements and finding envelopes big enough to cram lever arch files in.

The success of the Boole platform created the impetus for further fundamental changes in the way the department, the police force and other stakeholders work.

The police have introduced a digital interviewing solution that has been linked to Viewpoint and Boole and as a result audio tapes are no longer produced, reproduced, copied, filed, weeded and destroyed.

CJD staff actively pestered the IT department to develop Boole to enable the disclosure of photographs through the system to reduce the cost and time of printing photos. It also uses Boole to give its language partner, BigWord, access to all material for the transcription of foreign language interviews and statements.

In addition, CJD is able to share sensitive interview footage with Counsel in the UK where previously this would have been flown to the UK accompanied by an officer.

The results…

The outcomes from all this work have been substantial. As well as creating a secure process for distributing highly sensitive documentation it has:

There have been additional knock-on benefits to those in the justice systems in that:

In addition, and as a consequence of the much reduced workload, CJD staff are now able to spend more time on complex areas of the department’s work and develop a wide range of other skills to meet the broadening focus in other areas.

A final comment from the Criminal Justice Department…

Dr Helen Miles; Chair of the Criminal Justice IT Operational Group said: ‘The CJD and Jersey Police Force are genuinely committed to improving their service to the public and ensuring value for money and I cannot overstate the significance of this initiative to the States of Jersey Police and external partners. The public sector is often accused of lacking innovation and creativity, however, this project shows that this is not the case. The defence community have been a key partner working with the Police in the change process and this project provides an excellent example of how technology can transform the efficiency of a back-office process across multiple organisations.’

Dr Helen Miles

Chair of the Criminal Justice IT Operational Group

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