Interactive crime maps allow victims to track cases

The government will extend its interactive crime maps site to enable victims to track their cases online, according to Nick Herbert, minister of state for policing and criminal justice.

The government will extend its interactive crime maps site to enable victims to track their cases online, according to Nick Herbert, minister of state for policing and criminal justice.

Nick Herbert told the Modernising Justice conference in London: "We have ambitions to extend the website so more people can track their case. So far it's already received 420 million hits. We will also be showing people that these kinds of it projects need not be expensive but can be transformative. I'm optimistic about everything technology can do to modernise systems."

The interactive crime maps were launched on the Police.uk website earlier this year to enable people to monitor criminal activity in their area. But details of how the site will be extended are not yet available, as the department said it is still in the "work in progress" stage.

Performance in the criminal justice system can be improved by dealing with opacity of information, says Herbert. "In opening up systems we need to strike the right balance between public interest and privacy. When we are giving more justice information on the police justice site we have to look carefully at the interest of victims, and that we are not doing things without their consent. We'll be looking at things like anonymisation," he added.

In response to the question of whether a greater reliance on technology in the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) could lead to more system crashes, as the department drives forward plans to go paperless, Herbert said: "Our systems crash without any use of technology, cases crash day after day when people don't turn up, files are not prepared properly or due to imperfection in evidence. Of course we need safeguards, but we don't want to pile up reasons why we shouldn't be doing something."

"Our direction of travel is to provide more information about what is happening in systems, consistent with us properly addressing the interests of victims. The presumption of the criminal justice system should be that the public has a right to know," he said.

"A lot of the information we are talking about for police sites is already there. None of what is being described is rocket science. It's ambitious because our systems are antiquated, but not compared to the rest of the world."

Also speaking at the conference, CIO for the MoJ Andy Nelson said the department's strategy was to focus on consolidating existing IT systems. "We're on a journey to reduce the number of our core systems and make it easier to join things up.

"We've invested a lot in technology over the recent years but we don't exploit it. In the past there was an approach of building a new system to solve a requirement issue rather than looking at what we already have," Andy Nelson said.

Nelson said the department stands to save £150m from the £350m it spends on running systems by changing its procurement practices to procure as a single buyer, rather than through multiple channels.

Earlier this year the MoJ signed a £22m contract with Accenture to implement shared services across its human resources, payroll, finance and procurement operations for the next five years.

However, Nelson added there would be security challenges as interfaces get more complex as the department looks to outsource functions, such as its finance collection system, and brings in more private sector bodies.

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