A new £33m digital evidence sharing platform is set to transform the justice system in Scotland – freeing up police time and sparing witnesses from attending court as often.

Dundee recently began piloting the Digital Evidence Sharing Capability service (DESC), a secure and robust system that will for the first time allow prosecutors, court staff, police officers and defence lawyers to access a unified system to handle evidence digitally.

DESC handles evidence including CCTV footage, photographs, and data and other materials from computers and mobile devices. This will be expanded to include documents and recordings of police interviews.

Members of the public and businesses will be able to submit digital evidence – such as material recorded on mobile phones – more easily by email when sent a link by a police officer.

Benefits of the system include reducing the impact on victims and witnesses by supporting quicker resolution of cases as well as reducing police officer workloads. It will also significantly reduce the need to transport physical evidence, supporting wider carbon reduction efforts. A nationwide roll out is planned for later this year.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown said: “This is a significant milestone in our overhaul of how evidence is managed through Scotland’s justice system.

“From crime scene to courtroom, DESC will allow victims and others involved in criminal cases to move on with their lives sooner and free up officers’ time to focus more on frontline policing.

“No other country in the world has invested in a digital evidence solution which serves each part of the criminal justice system equally.

“The Scottish Government has invested £33 million in this innovative, secure and environmentally sustainable project, which also highlights the successful collaboration of justice partners. Already the pilot – which began in January – is proving extremely successful, with 600 cases handled and a guilty plea in a case involving digital evidence.”

Andrew Laing, deputy head of Local Court, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, said:“The introduction of this digital project will improve the experience of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process. Digital evidence sharing is one part of sector wide innovation, and COPFS is determined to play our part in increasing the confidence of victims in the criminal justice system through our commitment to modernisation along with our partners.”

David Fraser, executive director, court operations, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said:“This is a significant milestone in the DESC project and I would congratulate everyone who have been involved in getting to this stage. 

“Along with other initiatives including the Summary Case Management Pilot, it is anticipated this will lead to more court business being dealt with at an earlier stage. Issues around the presentation of evidence in court will also be lessened meaning that trials will run more smoothly. While this initial pilot will deal with Summary cases only, it is envisaged that DESC will be expanded to include Solemn business at a later stage.”

Police Scotland assistant chief constable Wendy Middleton, criminal justice, said: “We welcome the introduction of DESC which is expected to enable fast, secure digital evidence sharing across the criminal justice system.

“Police Scotland is working closely alongside its criminal justice partners to maximise the potential of this technology which aims to improve everyone’s experiences of criminal justice and enable further modernisation in the future.” 

Justice partners and software providers Axon have worked to ensure all the necessary data security and governance is in place for the pilot in Dundee. Only approved staff from justice organisations will be able to access DESC software