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Digital Criminal Justice

Digital Criminal Justice

Eurojust first proposed the concept of Digital Criminal Justice to the Council of the European Union in December 2018. The initiative aims at creating an EU-wide digital platform to enable Eurojust and the wider European judicial community to quickly and efficiently interact and exchange critical information and evidence during criminal investigations
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Eurojust is currently supporting the European Commission on a study to assess the viability and potential implementation of an EU-wide Digital Criminal Justice platform, and the study will be available in early 2020.

Digitalisation profoundly affects the criminal justice field, acting both as a catalyst of cross-border criminal activity and an effective tool to fight organised crime. In recent years, the European Union has taken steps to modernise the information systems used by law enforcement officials in the respective Member States, to better enable cross-border cooperation in criminal cases. In particular, EU Law enforcement authorities, including Europol, eu-Lisa and Frontex, are equipped with state-of-the-art digital (ICT) tools for gathering and sharing information, and can exchange and process operational data in a structured, encrypted, fully automated and interoperable way.

In contrast, judicial practitioners in the Member States, as well as Eurojust and other JHA agencies, often lack appropriate tools to tackle serious cross-border crime and enhance cooperation among involved authorities. In particular, the lack of a structured and integrated information system to support operational exchanges of crucial information and evidence during cases requires practitioners to find work-arounds based on cumbersome manual procedures. At Eurojust, such limitations slow down efforts to provide the level of service national authorities require in cross-border investigations.

Making the case for Digital Criminal Justice

In December 2018, Eurojust presented a note to the Council of the European Union outlining the need for a standardised set of digital tools to support efficient interaction and judicial cooperation within the European Union. These tools would incorporate the latest information technologies within a reliable and secure centralised IT infrastructure, known as Digital Criminal Justice (DCJ).

In addition to enhancing communication and data exchanges, an EU-wide Digital Criminal Justice platform would enable judicial practitioners to act swiftly and decisively during time-sensitive investigations; for example, by quickly issuing and responding to mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests and other legal instruments.

Potential features of Digital Criminal Justice include:

  • an advanced counter-terrorism register at Eurojust;
  • a common data-sharing facility for Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) to support operational planning, sharing, storage and tracing of case related evidence;
  • a central repository at EU level for digital e-Evidence exchanges, in support of the e-Evidence Platform;
  • a web portal enabling national judicial authorities to securely access micro-services to support cross-border exchanges;
  • secure communication infrastructure(s) which can be used by judicial practitioners in cross-border cases;
  • implementation of the hit/no-hit connection of Eurojust’s case management system (CMS) with Europol’s information systems and the CMS of the future EPPO;
  • an interoperability package to support information exchange between judicial authorities, in particular in relation with the European Search Portal and the ECRIS-TCN system; and
  • the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques and tools in specific cases.

In July 2019, the European Commission's Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, with the support of Eurojust and other stakeholders, initiated a study to further discuss, develop and implement the Digital Criminal Justice concept. Specifically, the study seeks to better understand the business needs of the judicial community working on cross-border criminal cases, and assess how these needs could be met by the proposed technological solutions. For more information, please see the project page.