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How technology can help improve engagement within the criminal justice system

In September 2016, HM Courts & Tribunal Services announced it’s six-year reform programme to modernise the administration of justice. Find the progress made so far as well as products available to help the criminal justice system.

The UK justice system is many hundreds of years old and, despite it’s esteemed reputation, it needs to keep up-to-date with emerging technologies to continually improve.

In September 2016, HM Courts & Tribunal Services (HMCTS) announced it’s six-year reform programme to modernise the administration of justice. The government allocated £1bn towards the initiative, in an aim to transform the court process to be more accessible and efficient whilst saving taxpayer money.

HMCTS has embarked on an ambitious reform programme that has undeniably instigated significant progress in the modernisation of the Criminal Justice System (CJS). The initiative has arguably borne notable success in breaking down the barriers that restricted accessibility, collaboration, and efficiency.

The COVID-19 pandemic came at a time when the UK probation system was also undergoing significant reforms. The pandemic has put added pressures on an already stretched prison system and impacted the courts and tribunals system resulting in backlogs. Now more than ever, it is clear the vital role technology can play in supporting the overall justice system, improving efficiencies as well as responding to the issues caused due to the pandemic.

To accelerate the digital transformation needed, techUK has established a Digital Justice Working Group of 29 techUK members, large and small, with commitment from public sector representatives across the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS), Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as well as representatives from academia. Its mission is to champion how digital technologies can transform courts and prisons, from understanding more about video enabled justice, prevention and rehabilitation to digital skills and inclusion.

Building solid foundations for the future

As well as protecting and upholding the rights of citizens, the UK justice system is the envy of the world, attracting billions of pounds of business each year as people all over the globe choose to have their cases heard in a fair and independent system, proven over centuries. But significant parts remain antiquated – with paper-based, complicated systems that were not designed around the people who use them.

The UK has been modernising the CJS services since 2016, providing new, user-friendly digital services and improving efficiency at the same time. The original vision for reform – to modernise and upgrade the justice system so that it works even better for everyone – remains true. But we must recognise that the world has changed since 2016 – and rapidly so – as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020.

To simply be able to keep the courts operating, the CJS has had to adapt quickly and make immediate changes to ways of working and technology. It is now even clearer that we need to finish our programme of reform so we can recover from the impacts of the pandemic, ensure our future resilience and provide a platform for future development to meet the demands of an ever-changing society.

Progress so far

Reform in the CJS is already well under way and having a huge impact for the public.

  • Over 426,000 people have used online services, keeping simple claims out of court and reserving judges and court space for the most difficult cases.
  • Online services for appealing immigration and asylum decisions, disputing benefits decisions and for local authorities to apply to take children into care are now in place. All of this helps some of the most vulnerable people facing difficult situations get justice as quickly as possible and supports litigants who do not have legal representation.
  • Implementation of the single justice procedure deals with simple, non-imprisonable cases out of court. It minimises delay and frees up court time for those cases that need to be heard in court. For anyone pleading guilty to an offence, it means they don’t have to attend court and their case is likely to be dealt with faster and more efficiently.
  • A new digital platform to manage 1.5m annual criminal cases is now being rolled-out across the service. It means victims will see justice more quickly and will be able to manage the surge in demand brought about by 20,000 new police officers.

The pandemic has highlighted that the most resilient services are those where there has been recent investment, where digital options for users have been implemented as well as new technology to facilitate alternative ways of working. Some of the legacy systems that necessitated the need for reform in the first place have been exposed as fragile in the face of an extremely challenging environment.

Online services, remote hearing capability and paperless systems have all played their part in reducing the need for people to visit sites in person and be able to follow their cases, do their jobs or file information online.

Without the modernisation that has already happened, large parts of the system such as probate and divorce would have almost ground to a halt. The Special Educational Needs and Disability tribunal has been running as a completely remote hearing since the start of the pandemic. This means families in crisis, often with children with complex needs, can seek justice quickly and easily.

Technology and data are the backbone of delivering an outcomes-focused criminal justice system. The need for secure access and sharing information effectively across diverse teams has never been more vital, especially when trying to integrate organisations and delivering joint approaches to justice that support the users and citizens.

We know secure access to technology and data can deliver the right services for users, enhance efficiencies and transform rehabilitation outcomes.

We’re here to help with Pathways

Pathways is a multi-module justice case management solution, bringing together practitioners, offenders, victims and the public at every stage of the justice process.

By effortlessly joining up data and presenting it on a clean user interface, you can do what you do best, helping people with the knowledge that you always have their full and up to date story, and an accurate record.

Pathways fully supports the end-to-end justice process for youth and adult offenders, managing each offender’s individual journey from their initial referral to the service or prison to the end of their sentence or programme completion.

Our team has experience throughout the sector, from probation to youth offending. We know the challenges you face and use this experience to constantly mould and develop Pathways for the future.

Find out more

If you’d like to find out more you can watch the NEC discuss How modern technology can help to improve service user engagement, or see how our software can support users in the the criminal justice system.

Any questions? Let us know at or call us on 01442 768445.