Scotland’s criminal justice system is being transformed by a management solution from Axon
Wherever you are in the world, Covid-19 has undoubtedly speeded up the adoption of digital technologies at home and in the workplace by several years.
In Scotland, a digital-first approach for public services will be delivering immediate benefits in 2022.
This follows the announcement in October that the Scottish Government is working with Axon to deliver a Digital Evidence Sharing Capability (DESC) that will radically overhaul the way that evidence is handled and used by the criminal justice system.
From crime scenes to court rooms, the DESC service will facilitate swifter and more effective investigation, reporting and presentation of court cases.
Police officers, prosecutors, court staff and defence agents will be able to access and manage evidence securely via Axon Evidence, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) digital evidence management solution, hosted within the UK.
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.
Previously, officers would spend time burning evidence from CCTV and mobile phones to discs, and deliver these discs by car, posing many challenges around information security and the lack of effective audit trails.
In addition, as host of Cop26, Scotland is at the forefront of commitments to a net-zero future and it is therefore essential that those unnecessary journeys are consigned to the past.
While lessening the administrative burden of those on the frontline of policing, the DESC service has also been developed with victims and witnesses in mind.
The new digital solution should mean that evidence is considered and disclosed earlier, leading to quicker case resolution and, potentially, fewer trials. Speeding up the justice process will be welcomed by all those involved.
In its recent report, Police 4.0, Deloitte states that “legacy systems and approaches inhibit proactivity and agility” and it is encouraging to see that, alongside DESC, there are other examples across the UK of innovation producing immediate results.
In the justice system, electronic signatures are now accepted for use in courts for low-risk crimes in England and Wales, and one pilot has seen a police force use a telephone-based statement taking
system with Adobe Sign to enable remote approval for witness statements.
Using in-person visits for only the most serious cases, British Transport Police estimates that using telephony and e-signatures saves 1.5 hours per statement and many miles on the road.
In Scotland, coronavirus legislation has also enabled the use of electronic signatures and digital service for some court documents, including warrants and citations.
There are also significant advancements for officers when incidents occur. Traditionally, officers
would return to the station with a full notebook and begin the process of typing up all they had seen and
Now, thanks to artificial intelligence, the Axon AI Transcription service allows an officer to dictate notes immediately after an incident has finished. When they are back in front of their laptop, officers’ notes are loaded up and ready to go, so they can fill out their reports faster and get back to doing what they do best – serving their community.
A “test and learn” mentality is essential for agile organisations as is collaboration, bringing the right people together to pool resources, share experiences and achieve a common goal.
The Scottish Government has shown the way forward with DESC and it provides a blueprint for how accessible“digital first” public services can partner with future-looking companies such as Axon to deliver benefits to citizens in public safety and beyond.
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