The contract for a new £10m digital evidence sharing platform for justice agencies in Scotland has been awarded to a leading technology company.

Axon, the US-headquartered public safety tech firm, will begin delivering a pilot scheme in spring 2022 that will speed up and streamline the way evidence is processed between police and the courts.

The Digital Evidence Sharing Capability (DESC) programme is a joint venture between government, the courts and police, and is designed to modernise the system and reduce duplication and error.

From crime scenes to court rooms, the new technology will facilitate swifter and more effective investigation, reporting, preparation and presentation of court cases.

The system will transform how evidence is collected, managed and shared allowing users such as police officers, prosecutors, court staff and defence agents to access evidence digitally in an efficient and user­ friendly way.

The initiative, developed collaboratively by justice partners, has the potential to significantly reduce the costs involved in managing and transporting evidence such as CCTV footage, video interviews and forensic images in physical form.

It will also allow for earlier consideration and disclosure of evidence leading to quicker resolution of cases and potentially fewer trials, benefitting victims, witnesses, and those accused of crimes.

Justice secretary Keith Brown said: “This is an important step in improving the experience of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process.

“It will make a real difference to the time taken for cases to come to court, allowing those involved in criminal cases to move on with their lives sooner.

“Earlier resolution of cases is just one of the benefits this programme will bring. We are also putting in place a modern, forward-looking platform that can be used as the basis for further transformation.

“This is an important development as we continue working across the criminal justice system to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, while at the same time creating a modern and resilient system for the future.”

Andrew Laing, DESC lead for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), said: “The DESC service is an important step in the modernisation of the justice system.

“Sharing of evidence has become more complicated in recent years as digital information is often held in a myriad of formats.

“The DESC service will allow COPFS to more easily access evidence gathered by the police and share it with the accused and their defence quicker and more efficiently.

“COPFS is committed to working with all partners to ensure the new system provides benefits for all and improves our service to the public.”

Eric McQueen, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service Chief Executive, said: “The justice system needs to keep pace with the growth and opportunities in digital advancements and we welcome the development of DESC, providing a secure evidence pathway from crime scene to court room.

“This will facilitate faster resolution of cases through early disclosure of evidence, while streamlining evidence presentation in courts by moving away from multiple formats and manual handling of evidence.”

Kenny MacDonald, Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable, said: “The DESC service provides each criminal justice partner with a secure shared platform to store and access digital evidence before the start of a trial.

“We believe this will encourage earlier resolution of cases and reduce the re­-traumatising of victims and witnesses when attending court.

“Early resolution will also mean less policing hours lost to court commitments allowing officers to continue serving the public on the frontline.

“DESC presents an opportunity to modernise our processes by removing the need for digital evidence to be duplicated and shared in hard copy format as well as providing the opportunity for a greater range of evidence to be presented in a digital format.

“Not only is this a more efficient process, but it also helps us reduce our carbon footprint.”

The Scottish Government has contracted with Axon Public Safety UK Ltd, to deliver the new service.

A spokesperson for Axon said: “This groundbreaking modernisation initiative will connect all Scottish justice sector partners and stakeholders, including the police, courts, prosecutors and defense agents.

“Axon Evidence is a cloud-based evidence platform that allows agencies and investigators to ingest, store, manage, transfer and share digital evidence across all public safety authorities. Axon was selected through an open and competitive procurement process for a provincial digital evidence management solution.”