Making justice work


A new IT pilot reducing inefficiency in the criminal justice system and saving thousands of pounds by ensuring the right people get to court is underway in Airdrie. 

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill today visited Airdrie Sheriff Court to hear about the new Court Door Listing Pilot, an initiative using technology to compare lists of those due to appear at court with those in prison custody to avoid “no shows”.  It also identifies any individuals due in multiple court locations at the same time. 

From analysis undertaken in 2010, the Scottish Prison Service found that around 3% of court hearings did not have the accused present as they were in prison custody and no one at the court knew that in advance, leading to churn and warrants being issued. 

Across Scotland the failure of prisoners to appear for court cases is estimated to cost the police, the Crown Office and the Scottish Court Service around £3.5 million each year in wasted time and effort.

The Airdrie pilot is being run by criminal justice partner organisations including the Scottish Government, the Crown Office and the Scottish Court Service to improve the sharing of information between the various parts of Scotland’s criminal justice system, increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

Mr MacAskill said:

“I want the public to have confidence that our justice system is there to serve them and will do so fairly, efficiently and effectively. 

“Audit Scotland estimates that inefficiencies across the criminal justice system cost around £55m each year; that is unacceptable and it’s vital that we look at new ways to modernise the system and better align systems and processes across the justice system.

“This pilot in Airdrie is already proving to be very successful with savings in just one week in the order of £20,000.  In that week there were ten cases identified when an individual would not have appeared in court, this new detection system allowed for better planning to allow the cases to progress without unnecessary delays and costs. 

“In addition to the cost element, there is also of course the inconvenience caused to other witnesses when court cases cannot proceed.  Many of these people can be victims and many will be there through no fault of their own and I want to improve the service they receive and their confidence in the system.  

“The number of police officers cited to court must also be reduced to cut unnecessary overtime costs and ensure that police time is spent protecting the public. 

“We are working to create a modern justice system that is fair, accessible and efficient and better meets the needs of the people of Scotland.  I am hopeful that this pilot can be rolled out across the country to reduce court case times and cut wasted time and money.”

When the Court Door Listing Pilot was run in Glasgow, the Scottish Government invested £250,00 in hardware and software. The results of the initiative showed this investment was paid for in five weeks through improving information sharing that would allow the accused to be brought from prison on the day.  There was virtually no start up cost associated with the Airdrie pilot as the software and equipment was rolled out from the Glasgow pilot.