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Digital Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice in the Digital Age

On 10 October 2019, Eurojust, in cooperation with the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, hosted an event, Criminal Justice in the Digital Age. Taking place at the main seat of the Council in Brussels, the conference highlighted the opportunities and challenges that digitalisation presents to Europe’s judicial community, and how new digital tools can help judicial practitioners in the Member States to work together more effectively to tackle serious cross-border crime.

Photos © European Union

As a keynote speaker at the event, the President of Eurojust, Mr Ladislav Hamran, highlighted the limitations of the current platforms and channels used to communicate and share evidence between Member States and Eurojust, as well as other JHA agencies. Mr Hamran also outlined the work being done through the Digital Criminal Justice (DCJ) study to identify digital solutions for improving fast and secure exchange of data and interoperability.

During his address, Mr Hamran mentioned the challenges faced by Eurojust and the wider judicial community that first led Eurojust to propose the DCJ concept to the European Council in December 2018. ‘Judicial authorities have no structured and integrated information exchange system for operational exchange between judges and prosecutors at EU level’, Mr Hamran explained.

‘The lack of an effective, standardised platform creates problems in terms of our day-to-day operations. Case-related information arrives at Eurojust via different channels, and in different formats and languages. Because of this fragmentation, we never get the whole picture, and as such are not able to provide meaningful, reliable and complete feedback on cases to all countries. We do not want to be seen as taking information but not giving anything back; the essence behind what we do is to find links between cases, to identify further investigations, and to work and cooperate effectively with our different partners.’

Mr Hamran’s views were echoed by Mr Roland Genson, Director for Justice, General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union - Justice and Home Affairs, who highlighted the opportunities and challenges presented by digital advancements such as artificial intelligence, and emphasised Eurojust’s central role in the DCJ project.

‘Criminal justice does not start in a prosecutor’s office’, said Mr Genson. ‘It starts when a victim goes to the police station to report a crime. We know that police services already have digital tools for exchange, but are these tools connected to judicial authorities? Do we have end-to-end digital coherence from the beginning of a criminal case through to the court decision and the execution of the sanction? Today, the answer is no, we do not. The question is how do we get to this stage; how can we make our digital tools fit for end-to-end processing of court cases?’

As well as outlining the issues leading to the Digital Criminal Justice project, the event introduced participants to the different components of the study, namely the process of mapping the current technologies that are available, and understanding the precise needs of judicial practitioners in the field, including when working transnationally in joint investigation teams (JITs). The solutions proposed by the study will also look to avoid duplication and create synergies between the communication and information systems currently in use across the European Union.

A final report containing recommendations covering all the aspects listed above will be made available to project stakeholders following the completion of the study, in February 2020. For further information on the Digital Criminal Justice project, including the background to the study and potential features of the platform, please visit the dedicated page on the DCJ project.