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JUSTICE


Te £20m DESC initiative is driving greater than ever before technological convergence in criminal case management


Data sharing project will underpin digital transformation efforts across Scottish justice system


BY KEVIN O’SULLIVAN


A new £20m project to create a shared portal for digital evi- dence in criminal cases is set to become the ‘backbone’ of moves towards greater collaboration between Scotland’s criminal jus- tice partners, according to senior government officials. Te recently-launched digital


evidence sharing capability (DESC) project – involving po- lice, crown prosecutors, the courts and government – will help usher in a new era of wider technologically-driven sharing of information at every stage of a criminal investigation. In order to improve efficien-


cies between what is viewed by many as a ‘Victorian’ courts system – and to deliver upon Scotland’s most senior judge Lord Carloway’s desire to take ‘bigger strides’ towards fully digitising the justice process – the DESC initiative was show- cased at FutureScot’s Digital Justice & Policing conference,


which took place at Te Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh on Tuesday, 29 October. Fiona Cameron, Head of


Justice Digital and Strategy Unit, Criminal Justice Divi- sion, Te Scottish Government, said: “DESC has a significance beyond what it will deliver in its own right; it’s really about the significance of joining our justice partners together in a digital sense and DESC will deliver for the first time a single techni- cal platform that will span the whole of the system and join up the whole criminal justice system. It will give us that digital backbone for the system which we haven’t had until now that will deliver the functionality at every part of the system. “But it’s more than just joining


up the organisations in a digital sense; DESC offers us the op- portunity to join up in a people sense, in DESC we really have the opportunity to work together in a way that we haven’t worked together before, and we’re trying


24 | FUTURESCOT | AUTUMN 2019


to leverage that. We’re using DESC as a pathfinder to create a different way of working, embedding colleagues from our partner organisations within a core central team. And it’s about also using that core central team to get out amongst criminal justice organisations and with users to properly understand their needs. She added: “We hope that


through working in a new way that we will be able to deliver that digital transforma- tion. Beyond coming together as a collaboration with Scottish Government and with criminal justice partners we recognise that we also need to work in collaboration with commercial partners who will bring us skills and agility that we would never have if we attempted to do this on our own.”


Cameron, a former criminal prosecutor, said that Scotland is also ‘uniquely’ positioned to de- liver upon those objectives, given


Chief Superintendent Matt Richards, who has management responsibility for the DEPP programme


its size and close-knit criminal justice community. Strategi- cally, the Scottish Government is working on ever-closer align- ment of objectives between criminal justice partners, which Willie Cowan, Deputy Director, Criminal Justice, outlined in his speech at the conference. He said that historically the main justice agencies had been all been constitutionally independent, and that was necessary, but that the all-too-common experience of victims and witnesses being let down by a system that was too prone to duplication, with vulnerable people having to ‘re-


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