The Digital Courtroom and Big Data

Courts in the UK are becoming increasingly digitised – in how they handle case work through to the types of evidence that is now able to be presented at trial.  Birmingham has become the UK’s first paper-free court, and as the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service uses roughly 160 million sheets of paper every year, the prospect of moving all courts to paper-free could be a significant money saver for the judicial system.

Technology is being introduced into court rooms across the country, to assist with evidence handling and witness statements.  However it is increasingly being used (less so in the UK) for collating analytics to help lawyers understand the impact of different variables on their case success.


Analytics for determining case success

Lawyers are now using software to analyse the decisions, biases and previous case records of judges, and a firm called Ravel Law has launched a piece of software last year to analyse judge behaviour; in a bid to help lawyers become more informed about how judges involved in their cases make decisions, and what factors are likely to make their cases more favourable.

Lawyers would have historically done this manually, trawling through previous cases and documents about their assigned Judge, to come up with an overview of previous ruling decisions, particular biases and useful trends – in order to develop better strategies.

This can now be done by analytics tools that amalgamate previous case information and offer up insights quickly and simply.  These insights have made it possible to uncover particular trends that might not have been flagged up by a traditional manual process, for example, in Israeli parole hearings, cases held earlier in the day had a better chance of receiving a favourable ruling compared with cases held just before lunch.

This type of analysis across many years of cases has meant that lawyers can quickly search against certain keywords or scenarios to see how juries and judges made decisions in other similar situations.  Legal teams can then realign their strategy throughout the case based on the analytics coming through to them.

One issue that has arisen from the study of analytics has been the uncovering of certain biases on the part of judges – whether that is social or geographic – but it has shown that rulings can be incredibly subjective depending on personal factors (such as where the judge studied and the types of cases he/she typically draws on to support rulings).

Apps such as Voltaire’s solution are now assisting with data analytics during the jury selection process, to analyse jurors’ biases through their web history and general digital footprint.


Behavioural analytics

The advent of video technology has now meant that behavioural analytics can be studied within courtrooms and the wider judicial system.  Being able to monitor defendant and witnesses’ behavioural patterns at the police station or in the court, could potentially help lawyers in the future to distinguish patterns and analyse the emotional psychology of individuals.

Birmingham Magistrates Court’s decision to go paper-free and install Wi-Fi throughout many of its court buildings means that it can now show video and audio evidence in court and deliver remote statements via video link.

In the future, if the government’s plan to make courtrooms fully digital in the next year, video links could be used to present defendants before magistrates from custody suites to reduce the time taken transporting individuals between police stations and court.  This is all part of the plans from the coalition government in 2012 to have a judicial system that is “swift and sure”, focusing on reducing court delays.


Future of the digital courtroom

Courts are still catching up and going paper free is probably still a long way off for many regions, however forward thinkers are already looking to the future about how technology could further impact the court room.

One of the areas we think that may be impacted is through sensor technology – taking jury and judge behavioural analytics a step further by collecting data from individuals during trials.  For instance, sensor data might be able to tell us that prosecution teams that move around the court more when presenting their case are more likely to receive an advantageous result from juries or that witnesses whose heart rate is consistently high when testifying are perceived as lying.  These are all just hypothetical examples, but if we are already monitoring the outcomes of cases based on how close to lunch the ruling was, it’s not ridiculous to think that sensor technology could make its way into the court room in the next ten years.


For more information about some of the points we raised above, see below:


Image provided courtesy of Surrey County News.


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