Earlier this month I attended the Future of Criminal Justice Conference in Manchester (UK). A number of notable experts participated in the conference, including Christopher Birkbeck (Professor of Criminology at the University of Salford), Kevin McGinty (Chief Inspector, HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate), Nazil Afzal (former Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England), Richard Perkins (NICE Systems) and others. The presenters spoke on topics ranging from ‘what a high performing Criminal Justice System looks like’ to ‘the future of Digital Policing and what it means for Criminal Justice Management.’ Here are some key insights that I took away from the conference:
Just Us or Justice? A Service to the people, not the system.
A common theme throughout was that the Criminal Justice system needs to change. Former Chief Crown Prosecutor Nazir Afzal made the point by asking: “Is it Just Us we want or Justice?” – referring to the different language and dress (wigs and gowns) commonly associated with the UK judicial system. The overarching point was that Criminal Justice in the UK has to embrace radical changes – at its very foundation – to become much more of a service to the public, instead of its own ‘club.’ Afzal, who has prosecuted many high profile cases, also emphasized other systemic changes that are needed. He pointed out that far too many cases take way too long to close. Cutting case closures from on average 1 year to 6 months would benefit all involved, he said, and that’s a worthy goal to strive toward.
Embracing change in an era of austerity and service focus
Kevin McGinty, Chief Inspector for HM Crown Prosecution Inspectorate also reiterated the need to embrace change in the new age of austerity and service focus. The old (and some would say ‘more personalized’) ways of doing things are no longer feasible in today’s budget-cutting environment. For example, complying with digital disclosure requirements is a ‘nightmare’ for resource-constrained prosecutors. Following a question from the audience, he also pointed out that the increase in body worn camera video will only add to the digital disclosure ‘nightmare’ and bring this issue more to the forefront.
The rise in cybercrime and social media criminality
John Davies, Director of Sales and Marketing for Prevade Software and Co-founder of the South Wales Cyber Security Cluster, talked about the growth in denial of service (DoS) attacks and the difficulty in identifying ‘cyber criminals’ due to anonymity and volume of malicious attacks. He made the point that the Criminal Justice system is playing catch up to cybercrimes and other crimes conducted using social media. For example, in some instances laws don’t even exist to successfully prosecute online mass cyber-attacks.
The future of Criminal Justice is bright
Whether it means implementing ‘digital courts’ with expanded internet bandwidth (which enables serving prisoners to give evidence from their prison cells rather than requiring them to be transported to court), or adopting digital policing solutions whereby police investigators and crown prosecutors can access and manage digital evidence more efficiently and effectively through secure portals, solutions to many of these problems do exist today. Those involved in the Criminal Justice process don’t need to work harder to achieve better results – they just need to work smarter. The future of Criminal Justice is bright!