Digital evidence gathering encouraged by Leveson review
CJS Inefficient, Time-consuming & Expensive
The Criminal Justice System needs a thorough overhaul. Cumbersome processes coupled with sustained austerity prompted the Lord Chief Justice to commission a report to look at ways to improve efficiency and the delivery of justice in the UK. The review commenced in July 2014 and was led by Sir Brian Leveson, who chaired the high profile inquiry into press standards.
(Leveson) “Our conduct of criminal trials was designed in the 19th century with many changes and reforms bolted on, especially over the last 30 years. The result is that it has become inefficient, time consuming and, as a result, very expensive.”
Leveson presented the review as an opportunity for those within the system to contribute ideas about ways that practices could be changed, and how waste and inefficiency could be tackled.
The findings were released on the 23rd January and although restricted to ideas not requiring legislation, the conclusion was emphatic that the CJS could and must be streamlined. Resources are diminished and this will not be reversed, despite burgeoning pressures throughout. The review cautions that no quantitative analysis to calculate potential savings from any one proposal is offered. However what does emerge is a clear sense of urgency and conviction that the changes identified are necessary and sound.
The findings propose sweeping efficiency reforms for the outdated and often disjointed justice system. Amongst Leveson's recommendations are proposals to foster greater reliance on technology. The overarching principle is to encourage more effective communication between all parties along the judicial trail with a view to saving time and money.
Encouraging Digital Evidence Gathering
Chapter 3 concerns itself with the increasing role of IT and advocates further integrating new technologies whilst establishing broad technical compatibility. Digital presentation of evidence is a key aspiration and body-worn video cameras on police officers “will have a potentially huge impact on the trial process” (3.2.1 / 53) Digital evidence gathering is strongly encouraged and police body-mounted cameras are considered reliable and effective. Trials of BWVC report consistent positive findings across a wide range of policing activities.
Leveson references the public support recorded following the Isle of Wight BWVC trial (Operation Hyperion). “At least 90 per cent considered that cameras would assist the process of gathering evidence and identifying criminals, as well as increasing the likelihood of convictions.”
What also emerges is the caution that Police Forces should be encouraged to ensure that evidence from body-worn cameras is supplied in a digital format that can be accessed by the wider CJS.
The review is a solid validation for the efficiency of integrating body-worn cameras into the justice system and this has clear implications for adjacent security and enforcement sectors.
The full report can be accessed here.
<(Photo top left: C leaning of Lady Justice over the Old Bailey, London, January 1933)