Chapter 2: Digital Innovation
Ipads in Court
17. In our 2015-16 Annual Report we advised that the use of Ipads/tablets in court was ready for user testing in two procurator fiscal offices. Technical issues impacted on the original time scales for the roll-out but taking on board feedback from users in both offices significant improvement has been made to their functionality, including the provision of larger screens, resulting in a more user-friendly and intuitive product.
18. Ipads allow prosecutors to electronically access case files, through the use of a digital application “Case Management in Court” (CMiC), without the need for hard copy papers. This provides the following benefits:
- Improved presentation in court – the ability of prosecutors to access all documentation held electronically for each case at a click of a button should improve the standard of service provided to the court.
- Environmental – less printing/use of paper will reduce COPFS’ carbon footprint.
- Improved efficiency and customer service – the application allows prosecutors to electronically transmit what happens in court in real-time to the COPFS system creating efficiencies for administrative staff. This enables staff in offices to provide victims and witnesses with speedier updates on what has happened.
- Enhanced security – the reduction of transportation of hard copy papers lessens associated security risks. All Ipads are secure and encrypted.
19. Ipads have now been rolled–out to a further eight offices, with a further five due to come on board before the end of 2018 and the remaining 22 offices by the end of 2019. The use of Ipads in court represents a cultural change for prosecutors. To mitigate concerns, roadshows have taken place across the country to showcase the application and encourage familiarity with its functions. Ipads are currently limited to summary courts although the next step is to scope what is required for their use in Sheriff and Jury courts.
20. While there is still a requirement for some hard copy papers to be available in court, including previous convictions that need to be tendered to the court following a conviction and productions, work is underway with partner agencies to increase the use of electronic transfer of documents to further reduce the need for hard copy papers.
21. We received a demonstration and were impressed with how user-friendly and intuitive they had become from the initial prototype. While we were not in the pressured environment of a court, the advantages were readily apparent and we received positive feedback from prosecutors who are currently using the Ipads in court. Prosecutors continue to feedback on where further improvements can be made to enable further refinements as part of a programme of continuous improvement. Overall, this is a significant advancement in the way cases are prosecuted in Scotland in the 21st Century... So far the feedback is “It’s an Aye to Ipads”.
22. During the Justice Committee Inquiry into the role and purpose of COPFS in 2017 COPFS advised that part of the response to the evolving nature of crime was the development of a public witness website that allows for the secure posting by COPFS of information for witnesses. It will also enable the secure provision of information by witnesses and victims, such as change of address and provide witnesses with:
- secure access to their statement;
- the opportunity to see their particular case progress online; and
- the opportunity to ask questions online.
23. COPFS has recently received funding from Scottish Government to produce a prototype of the witness website or “portal” by the end of March 2019. Initially it will have secure log-on capabilities and the functionality to allow witnesses to access their statements on-line and produce an audit trail of activity. Once the prototype has been developed, there will be a period of testing/evaluation of its functionality and capability before the system is rolled out for use. It is envisaged that the portal will be further enhanced in due course to allow more general provision of information to assist victims and witnesses.
24. The Inspectorate will watch with interest how these developments unfold with a view to assessing the impact this has on COPFS’ service provision.