New digital system 'could resolve criminal cases quicker'

An evidence sharing system is to be piloted next year which will resolve criminal cases quicker and lead to potentially fewer trials, according to the Scottish Government.

The new system may speed up court cases

Axon Public Safety UK Ltd has been contracted by the Scottish Government to deliver the Digital Evidence Sharing Capability service (DESC).

The contract, worth £10 million, will see the new system piloted in spring 2022.

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It will change how evidence is collected, managed and shared – allowing police officers, prosecutors, court staff and defence agents to access evidence digitally.

The Scottish Government said it will reduce costs involved in managing and transporting evidence such as CCTV footage, video interviews and physical forensic images.

It said the system will lead to quicker resolution of cases and potentially fewer trials as a result of earlier consideration and disclosure of evidence through the system.

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.”

Andrew Laing is leading the project for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

He said: “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.”

Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service chief executive Eric McQueen said: “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.”

Police Scotland assistant chief constable Kenny MacDonald said the new system will “provides each criminal justice partner with a secure shared platform to store and access digital evidence before the start of a trial”.

He added: “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.”

The Scottish Government said digital evidence in the system will only be accessible by approved personnel, such as police officers, fiscal staff and defence agents and that access to information will be “fully audited and monitored”.

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