The legal system in the UK has been under pressure for over a decade with it often taken many months after a crime has been committed before a case comes to court.
This is true for both serious as well as low level offences and the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. The backlog of cases estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, could take as long as ten years to process.
But there are strategies that could help alleviate the situation. One is Out of Court Disposals (OOCDs) which enables the Police to directly deal with low-level crime, particularly first time offenders, without having to prosecute them to the courts system.
Furthermore, as OOCD crimes are less serious, it provides the chance for the law to quickly intervene before a first-time offender progresses to more serious criminal activity. Police can enrol them on a diversionary course in an attempt to re-educate them and correct their behaviour.
The quicker and simpler approach offered by an OOCD can also result in an intervention that can be more effective than a court appearance at reducing reoffending and repairing the harm that has been done.
Whether it be in terms of social justice, rehabilitation, or the pragmatic issues of time and cost, OOCDs are a powerful tool. But if the legal backlog is to be effectively tackled, police forces must be empowered to wield them more effectively.
On paper, OOCDs are the perfect solution. But that’s the problem: the majority of them are processed on paper and officers aren’t always aware of all the remedies that are available, particularly in relation to educational courses that can help to avoid reoffending.
Processing an OOCD also involves having to key in information that has been captured on forms into a force’s records management system. This makes filing crimes, processing offenders, and imposing effective remedies a time consuming process – potentially offsetting the benefits and impacting the number of OOCD’s that can be processed.
It’s a difficult challenge for sure – and an important one. Ensuring the wheels of justice are smooth and fair is critical to our society. So when we were asked to help solve the problem, we involved as many voices as we could to help build a solution.
A collaborative approach
Fujitsu invited police forces from across the country to our Digital Transformation Centre. Our goal was to bring in as many perspectives as possible, and really get to grips with the problem.
Over a 5-day workshop, we captured as much information we could: the documentation, the workflows, the process – everything. We fleshed out the challenge in its entirety then went to the drawing board to design a solution.
By combining low code with an agile methodology, we worked through seven biweekly sprints, building a prototype application ready to be evaluated, tested and deployed on officers’ devices. The immediate benefit here being to officer productivity; when implemented officers will be able to redress OOCD specific offences in real time while on duty rather than back at the police station, re-entering all the data they captured earlier on paper.
A key part of our Multi Experiential Development (MXD) methodology was the use of Outsystems low code platform, which enabled us to focus on the user experience and business logic (leaving OutSystems to automatically manage lower level considerations such as the variable screen sizes of mobile devices) as well as the speed of delivery. Through an iterative, co-creation approach, we were able to quickly build, gather feedback, and refine our offering in weeks – not months or years.
A digital solution
Our result was an app that digitises the entire process. Rather than having to fill out reams of paperwork, officers can use their phone to quickly capture information and process the OOCD. But the biggest benefit of our solution is the alignment it brings. When a crime is committed, the app can automatically attribute severity, the level of authorisation needed, and the suggested remedies. It also enables officers to easily view and enrol offenders on appropriate courses – something that isn’t simple when done manually.
Although it’s currently just a prototype, the app has real potential to transform how the police handle OOCDs across the country. There are still challenges to overcome to make this a reality but for now, the project is a great use case for how agile, low code and co-creation can make a real impact on society.