Damian Green 'Modernising Justice' Speech

Speech given by Damian Green on 24 June 2014.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Damian Green MP

Thank you for asking me along to deliver the opening keynote speech at what promises to be an important conference. The list of speakers you will hear from today have a wealth of experience and knowledge working in the criminal justice arena. This is at a time when there are unprecedented opportunities in embracing and using technology. Technology can help everyone tackle crime and ensure that all those that come into contact with the system, particularly victims and witnesses, are properly served by a modern and efficient criminal justice system. I want to deal with a few key issues that are important to me as the Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims’ Minister.

It is two months today since I was at Bromley Magistrates Court launching a Digital Business Model for the CJS. This not only shows the glamorous locations my job offers, but illustrates how this business model provides us with a vision for what a transformed digital Criminal Justice System could look like when all of our reform programmes deliver their goals. That vision is of a system that will work seamlessly across all agencies from the police to the courts, and efficiently serve all those involved in the criminal justice system, facilitated and aided by technology.

All parts of the system need to share the same vision, because end–to-end digitisation of the CJS is being driven through a number of different reform programmes. There is a lot of good work going on – some of which you will hear about during the course of today, - and all the projects, wherever they originate, share the same aim of modernising and reforming the CJS for the better.

CJS Reform

The Criminal Justice System in England and Wales is a result of 1,000 years of evolution. Today’s CJS is made up of a number of agencies working together to deliver fair and proportionate justice. There is much to be proud of within our system; it is admired around the world. However in developing over many years, there has not always been a clear focus on the way information flows between different organisations. Investment in technology has lagged behind that of other public services, and outdated IT systems and working practices cause unnecessary delays.

In the court room we are working to change this, by introducing a range of in-court technologies to enable greater efficiency and effectiveness of criminal proceedings. This is being led by the CJ efficiency programme. By July 2016 my ambition is for Magistrates, Judges, defenders, prosecutors, and others who work in a professional capacity in the courts, to be able to access, manage, present, and collaborate on information without the need for paper case files.

Eventually we need a fully digital system, which all parts of the process can plug into. This will enable the CJS to simplify and improve through sharing data, ensuring data is only entered once, and ending the duplication of effort across both HMCTS and CPS.

Equal partners in delivering this vision of a joined up digital CJS are the police. Over the past four years the policing landscape has changed considerably. Firstly, we have overseen structural reform. We have made the police more accountable by replacing invisible Police Authorities with directly elected PCCs; we’ve introduced the College of Policing to set policing standards and deliver training, and set up the National Crime Agency with the right powers to tackle serious and organised crime.

Secondly we have overseen cultural change, for example through the implementation of Tom Winsor’s recommendations, and the introduction of the Code of Ethics through the College of Policing.

The third stage of our reform is concerned with changing the way that policing is done on a daily basis – to reduce bureaucracy, free up police time and drive innovation. Our work to date to reduce bureaucracy, if fully implemented could see up to 4.5 million hours of police time saved across all forces every year - the equivalent of over 2,100 officers back on the beat. Alongside these, we are working to achieve further time saved through the introduction of new technologies. It is absolutely vital that new police systems, from body worn video to tablets and touch screens used on patrol, can produce evidence which is immediately available to the rest of the Criminal Justice System.


I have spoken before about my vision for a digital police force by 2016; my ambition is for each force to be able to interact seamlessly with the rest of the Criminal Justice System. Work is already underway to enable police officers to record evidence digitally whilst on the beat, with the ability then to upload evidence to a digital storage which the CJS will draw from. So far, through reducing bureaucracy and focussing on digitisation, police productivity has improved and the proportion of officers in frontline roles is up to 91 per cent.

Previous efforts to introduce technology, while well intentioned, were too often attempts to use technology for its own sake rather than thinking about the processes that need improving, or the ultimate benefits. We could hold a whole conference on the issue of what has gone wrong in public sector IT programmes over the last 30 years; that is a large part of the problem. It is wrong to believe that technology has all the solutions in itself, and that if you automate a system you will solve the problems with that system. There are countless examples of where IT has gone wrong because it is trying to automate a flawed process.

College of Policing and Digital Capabilities

The College of Policing has a role to play in setting standards, not least with regards to the use of technology. The College has also developed a set of capabilities which set out what a digital police force looks like. Examples of these capabilities in action are:

• Improving the Officer experience - Hampshire uses a variety of mobile devices to give officers the full desktop experience out on the street. They found that they could demonstrate a 26% reduction in the time spent by officers in stations and a 20% reduction in mileage covered by patrol vehicles as they’re essentially only going where they’re needed.

• Improving links to the wider CJS - Surrey are currently trialling new mobile devices to enable mobile working where officers will be able to create CJ Cases digitally (currently for traffic offences), access multiple databases, complete forms, update force systems and upload images all from the road side.

These are only two examples from many that highlight a small proportion of the wide range of work being undertaken by a number of forces across the country.

The 2013/14 precursor Police Innovation Fund was successful in promoting creative bids for the police use of technology. Every police force in England and Wales benefited from a share of the fund, which will fund forces to reduce crime through the use of body worn video, improve collaboration with fire and rescue services, and roll out innovative mobile data solutions. To support this force digitisation, the Home Office has allocated over £11 million through the Innovation fund to assist IT projects within forces including body worn video and mobile data.

I will be announcing successful bids to the £50m 2014/15 Fund shortly. Like the 2013/14 pre-cursor fund, I’m pleased that many of the bids have focused on the innovative use of technology.

Body Worn Video is an example of a technology that not only improves efficiency, it is impacting on police integrity, helping to build trust and confidence in the police, as well as proving an invaluable tool in fighting difficult crimes such as Domestic Violence. Evidence from Strathclyde Police and Grampian Police suggests body worn camera evidence can drive increased numbers of early guilty pleas with 90% pleading guilty.

Another example of the way technology is transforming the experience of the Criminal Justice System for victims is Track My Crime, an innovative secure online portal which offers victims of crime a single gateway which tracks their cases through the criminal justice system. Victims receive automatic updates on their case in a secure and timely manner, and are able to contact officers in charge of their case.

Piloted by Avon and Somerset police, I went to visit the force and see their progress last week. There are now seven police forces involved with Track My Crime, a service which was supported by the Home Office Trailblazer Fund. Ultimately the government will be providing Track My Crime, free of charge, for all police forces to use in their local area. I want a system where a victim, no matter where they are in the country can track their crime through each stage of the CJS, on their screen.

Seamless join up

But police reform is not happening in isolation, and nor should it. As I outlined at the beginning of the speech – a key ambition with regards to modernising the CJS is to ensure that there is a seamless join up right across the system, from the police, through the CPS and beyond. This is an area where there is much more to be done.

I can’t stress enough that in order to be truly innovative and make real progress with digitisation across the CJS, all agencies need to work collaboratively together and agree a common set of principles for digitisation I find it striking that the areas where we are making real progress are those where there has been fantastic collaboration. This is not always straightforward I know, but if collectively we are more ambitious then collectively we will achieve our goals.

Open Standards

This week I will be writing out to all Chief Constables and Police Crime Commissioners to encourage them to adopt common open standards, which will enable IT systems across the police and the wider CJS to interact seamlessly. Local police systems should be able to interface with national law enforcement or Criminal Justice systems. This will not only benefit the CJS through increased effectiveness and efficiency, but, more importantly, it will ensure that the experiences of both victims and witnesses of the CJS are more joined up.

By the autumn the CJS Efficiency Programme will launch the first streamlined digital file. This changes the way case files are collated and presented into court, moving away from a series of paper forms and instead producing a compilation of digital case information in a format that allows transfer direct from officer to prosecutor. The national product will not be a stand-alone application. It will be built in a way to allow forces to freely add it into their individual case file systems. This streamlined digital file demonstrates the collaborative working going on across the CJS, which will benefit all parts of the syst em and move us one step closer to a digital end-to-end system.

The action we are taking now to join up the CJS will be vital in helping to tackle some of the new challenges we will face in the future. There are lessons to be learnt around how a joined up CJS can improve the justice system for everyone involved.

For example the police capability to understand and tackle everyday, volume crime when it takes place online is not as developed as it could be. Increasingly the policing of cyberspace will be as important as policing of the streets. Local forces, and indeed the wider CJS need to be able to recognise, investigate and prosecute crimes committed online.

As I said at the start of my speech, the digital business model gives a detailed vision for a reformed CJS, but we will only realise that vision if all agencies and partners within the CJS fully embrace change and work together to make it happen. Changing IT systems and introducing new technology is only part of this challenge. In order to truly reform the CJS and deliver end-to-end digitisation, we need to change the way we think and look beyond borders to work together.

Users of the CJS, in particular victims and witnesses, should expect a quality service. Our CJS reforms have the potential to dramatically alter the way we deal with everybody who has a stake in the criminal justice system from victim to offender. From the start of the process when a crime is reported, right through to the way a prisoner is dealt with by probation we now have the opportunity to deliver real change, but this will only happen if we work together as one Criminal Justice System. I’m very confident we can rise to that challenge.

Published 24 June 2014