Criminal justice

Algorithm use in the criminal justice system report

The criminal justice system plays a vital role in society, so everyone who uses it must have confidence in it.

Increasingly algorithms are being used in the criminal justice process, from identifying criminals to administering justice and rehabilitation.

Algorithms can be used to process information such as:

  • historical crime data
  • a schedule for police officer patrols
  • the details of someone’s identity, including their image

They can make law enforcement and the administration of justice more efficient and consistent.

But using algorithms without questioning them or explaining them to the public could lead to decisions which threaten human rights and undermine public trust in the justice system.

Technology and Law Public Policy Commission report

We created our Technology and Law Public Policy Commission to examine how algorithms are used in the justice system and the possible risks they present. We looked at methods used by the police such as facial recognition technology and predictive crime mapping – anticipating crimes and taking action to prevent them.

Stakeholders who contributed to the report included:

  • academics
  • public bodies
  • legal practitioners
  • technology professionals
  • civil liberties organisations
  • law enforcement agencies

The research was made up of:

Our view

We believe that to maintain the integrity of the justice system and preserve human rights, everyone using this technology will need to agree how it’s used.

Some of the important areas we identified were:

  • the need to improve methods for overseeing algorithms
  • transparency of algorithms used for procuring public services
  • strengthening and clarifying regulations around fairness, transparency and data protection in the justice system 

The recommendations in our report give a practical and workable step in the right direction.

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