Government considering use of unique IDs across justice system
Minister claims that efforts to replace legacy tech provide opportunity to adopt new system
The government is exploring the possibility of introducing a system of unique identifiers for all users of the justice system.
The idea has previously been proposed by the likes of Dr Natalie Byrom – a director of charity The Legal Education Foundation who was seconded to HM Courts and Tribunals Service in 2019 to produce a government-backed report on how data and digital could be better used in the justice system.
Three years on, and one of her most prominent recommendations – a full evaluation of a the possible introduction of unique IDs for courts users – remains under consideration, according to James Cartlidge, a junior minister at the Ministry of Justice with responsibility for courts. He added that ongoing efforts to reduce the use of ageing tech across the justice system makes the proposal ever-more feasible.
“A full assessment of the impact has not been carried out, however we have been considering where such an identifier might be used in the future,” he said. "Our work on replacing legacy technologies opens up the potential for progressing this, and as part of this work we would assess the risks and impacts further. We are also engaged more broadly with the Government Digital Service on their single ID for government programme.”
The minister added that the MoJ’s digital function has been allocated £1m to spend during the 2022/23 year to make “improvements in its data infrastructure”.
“In addition, for 2022/23, £3m has been allocated within MoJ HQ to fund data improvement and £2m has been allocated as part of a Criminal Justice System data improvement programme,” he said. “In line with its published data strategy, HMCTS has also been investing in its data function. This includes a £1m annual uplift to the running costs of the team and £6.2m investment in the financial year 2022/23.”
Cartlidge was responding to written parliamentary questions from Steve Reed – Labour’s shadow justice secretary and the MP for Croydon North.
In her report, Byrom said that: "Unique identifiers at the user, rather than case level would facilitate the development of a detailed understanding of the way in which court users progress through the system, where and when they exit the system, and the outcomes they secure when they do so. This would support HMCTS to deliver a better service to users of reformed systems and meet their public commitments... If appropriately anonymised, this data could also be of use to researchers and wider stakeholders, including policymakers. Experts in privacy law and data ethics should be consulted to advise on the benefits and drawbacks of this approach and ensure that this data is captured, stored and utilised in a manner that respects established legal and ethical requirements. The public acceptability of the creation of individual identifiers should be tested prior to their introduction."
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