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Joined up Justice


Covid-19 exposed a lack of resilience in the criminal justice system in England and Wales; performance deteriorated, threatening its legitimacy in the eyes of the public. In a report published in January 2021, Crest showed that as a consequence of Covid-19 and other, long-standing, issues, the system was heading towards a ‘tipping point’ and without profound change it could cease to function properly. 

The problems have been highlighted by a growing backlog of criminal cases. Last year, a report from the National Audit Office revealed that the backlog in the Crown Courts had reached 60,692, an increase of 48% between March 2020 and June 2021. Crest’s modelling projected that unless urgent measures were taken, the number of such cases could reach unmanageable levels by 2024. Ministers have said that extra funding provided under the Government’s spending review would help to reduce the backlog to 53,000 - but that is still well above pre-pandemic levels. 

It is clear, therefore, that the criminal justice system is failing in its mission to deliver timely and fair justice for both victims and offenders. Crest has recommended that the Government take a ‘whole-system’ approach to rebuilding the system with technological solutions playing a role. Indeed, Public Polling and a Citizens’ Jury conducted by Crest revealed that the public were open to the idea of the courts making greater use of digital technology to increase efficiency.

Covid-19 revealed that the criminal justice system does not truly operate as a system; it is often more of a collection of individual agencies with their own distinct motivations and incentives. Areas which responded best to the challenges posed by Covid-19 appear to be those where agencies coordinated activity locally, through local criminal justice boards or combined authorities. In order to deliver the fair and efficient justice system the public demand, agencies will need to develop new ways of working together around common objectives. This project identified opportunities for applying new approaches to the barriers which prevent the system working effectively as a whole system rather than as a collection of agencies.

What did we look at?

In partnership with CGI, we are exploring the potential for digital solutions to make criminal justice system processes more efficient and improve the experience for those involved. Our aims are to:


1. identify inter-agency pressure points, blockages, disconnects and obstacles within the agencies of the criminal justice system, and their impact on:

- operational performance and efficiency and

- victims and other CJS service users

2. develop real world solutions in partnership with practitioners, emphasising the smarter use of digital technology to reduce the backlog.

To achieve these aims we are conducting research on the current performance of the criminal justice system in England and Wales, mapping processes in the system and identifying key connections between the agencies involved. We are conducting interviews with national stakeholders as well as victims groups and CGI, asking:


  • What are the warning signs that pressure is building up in the criminal justice system?

  • Where are the greatest blockages and what are the causes of delays?

  • What would help to remove blockages, in particular how could digital technology make a practical difference?


Crest will also conduct an in-depth study in partnership with a local criminal justice board to analyse timeliness in the criminal justice system - focusing on two crime types: sexual offences carried out by men against female victims; and drugs offences. Crest will engage with board members to find out where they think the blockages are in the system and how they can be resolved; we will explore what effective data sharing would look like in practice.


To test assumptions from national level literature reviews and insights collected as part of the in-depth interviews, Crest and CGI justice experts will run a 'Hack Day', inviting representatives of agencies who are taking part in the interviews, along with representatives from the local criminal justice board we have partnered with.

The Hack Day will feed into a ‘white paper’ which will distil insights from earlier phases of the research. The paper will include a series of recommendations on how best to implement technological solutions to overcome the immense challenges facing the criminal justice system.

What did we look at? 

The project was completed in three key phases.

Phase 1: Explored the evolution of the ‘traditional model’ of county lines through the lens of technological innovation, examining the links between changing patterns of exploitation and advances in digital communications.

Phase 2: Identified new and emerging trends in the use of telecommunications and social media by county lines drug gangs.

Phase 3: Findings from the research are included in a final report. There are be recommendations for central government departments and law enforcement agencies.

This project was carried out in collaboration with CGI.


CGI – helping transform the way Justice is administered across the UK.

For over 20 years, CGI has been at the forefront of helping the UK Justice system update, to employ modern ways of working and keep pace with a rapidly changing world. We are committed to supporting UK Justice to continuously improve the services delivered. Over 70,000 frontline users take advantage of CGI’s systems across the country.


We work in partnership with clients. Our work with the Crown Prosecution Service, Ministry of Justice, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, Home Office, National Crime Agency, and National Policing  uniquely positions CGI with end to end oversight of the Criminal Justice system. So, we understand the challenges being faced today and how to overcome them to help accelerate our client's ability to translate data into actionable insights, and then share this data securely, across the UK Justice System.

Project publications

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