Our aim is that by the end of the year we will have a number of tried and tested ways of working digitally that will firstly eliminate a lot of wasted time, and secondly build in more helpful checks and balances along the way.

The practical impact

The move to digital working will contribute to eliminating many of the resource heavy processes associated with paper, including photocopying, filing manual forms, locating files, couriering large volumes of paper and spending valuable time matching correspondence to case files. Important examples include:

Having common digital platforms with the police

This will mean that the police can feed information into our systems directly, and prosecutors can go and view key pieces of evidence held by the police on their systems remotely, such as CCTV footage. This will negate the need for huge electronic file transfers or the physical handing over of discs (or perhaps even old fashioned VHS tapes) alongside bundles of paper files. More importantly, it means that we and the police will be working off one master copy of each case file, and all the information is common to both organisations and up to date at all times.

Secure e-mails

Due to the sensitive nature of our work we use secure e-mails to share information with criminal justice agencies – the police, courts service, and witness care units – quickly and reliably as the information remains secure and the transfer is both quick and cost-effective.

We are encouraging law firms, chambers and defence solicitors to use the secure e-mail system, which is part of the Government Secure Community.
In a number of CPS areas secure e-mails are being used daily to exchange information, files, and the payment of fees. It is free and easy to sign up to and is available to any firm of solicitors or set of chambers which might receive files from the CPS (for more information please see http://www.cjsm.cjit.gov.uk/signup/index.php). This system can also be used to send cases to court.

Use of laptops

In Merseyside, Wales and Wessex we are conducting live trials in a programme where prosecutors use laptops or tablet devices in court. Ultimately this will be deployed across the country. In one case prosecuted in Wessex where a laptop was used, all information was compiled electronically. The lawyer reviewed the file on screen and presented the case directly from the laptop. The defendant pleaded guilty and the lawyer e-mailed the result to the office, where the decision was recorded on our database and the Victim & Witness Care Unit notified.

Electronic presentation of evidence

This is where specially equipped courtrooms provide all parties with screens on which to view evidence. Jurors, judges and defence all follow the evidence simultaneously on screens as it is presented by prosecuting counsel in court. Where possible, and appropriate, this way of presenting evidence can shorten the length of complex trials and keep juries much more engaged. It is a practical alternative to paper trial bundles, and can make document-intensive fraud trials, for example, easier to understand. This method had been used several times in major terrorism and fraud cases.

Why we are doing this?

Overall a digital prosecution system will result in a simpler, faster and more cost effective exchange of information with our criminal justice partners and will speed up the entire process. By October this year we hope to have all the technology in place to work digitally and from there on in the intention is to move rapidly to implement all parts of the digital working process. The aim is that the CPS will be working digitally from April 2012 onwards. There is a real sense of momentum building across the criminal justice system on this; I would urge everyone involved in the administration of justice to get on board as soon as possible as I have absolutely no doubt that this is the future for us all and it starts now. 

Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Crown Prosecution Service.

Digital prosecution
- Key components

  • All evidence and case information exchanged between the Police and the CPS through linked computer systems.
  • CPS prosecutors prepare and progress cases on screen rather than on paper; this means that one master copy of the file is maintained and worked from.
  • Full use of Electronic Presentation of Evidence (EPE) for complex cases where possible in court. This has already happened in fraud and terrorism cases.
  • Paperless witness care.
  • Cases sent to courts, solicitors and counsel electronically using secure e-mail.