‘Transforming to digital is a defining moment for the criminal justice system’ – revisiting Starmer’s CPS tenure

In an interview given shortly after the end of his five years at the head of the Crown Prosecution Service, the new prime minister discussed the impact of tech transformation

Having been elected as the UK’s prime minister, it is worth remember that Keir Starmer’s new job is not his first senior role in government.

From 2008 to 2013, the PM led the Crown Prosecution Service and held the position of director of public prosecutions. During his time at the CPS, Starmer oversaw a major programme of reform and streamlining – a key part of which was the widespread adoption of digital platforms.

During his five-year term, 10 Downing Street’s latest inhabitant led an initiative to reduce from 42 to 13 the number of administrative areas into which the CPS’s work was structured. The transformation agenda also include reducing by half a previous tally of about 100 offices around the country – a number which has continued to fall, to fewer than 40. The former DPP also led efforts to adopt digital ways of working.

In an archived interview with PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World – conducted shortly after he left civil service and recently republished here – Starmer talked up the significance of the digitisation work.

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“The major transformation from paper to digital is one of the defining moments in the history of the criminal justice system,” he said. “You could say it’s a bit late, but at least it’s happening. And you can’t do that on your own: we’ve had to work really hard with the police to make sure that we can get digital files from them, and with the courts to get files across to them.”

The implementation of a digital systems for handling cases – along with the introduction of standard operating processes – meant that, if one of the CPS’s locations had an excess of work, “we can transfer that to another office at the click of a button, whereas in the past we’d have had to take it by lorry – and when it arrived, there would have been a slightly different way of working”, Starmer told CSW.

As he left office in 2013, technology was also beginning to reshape how CPS engaged with police forces and the courts system, according to Starmer.

“There are many hearings in court that could be shorter, or not occur at all, if we were working digitally,” he said “Very often, what you encounter is agreement between prosecution and defence for interim hearings, and that agreement could have been reached earlier had we been working digitally.”

Read the full interview here on Civil Service World. You can also read here CSW’s in-depth feature bringing together insights and memories from those who worked with and for Starmer during his time at the CPS.

PublicTechnology staff

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