Crime and Justice Transparency Sector Panel - Minutes of the meeting held on 13 December 2011at Home Office
Dr Kieron O’Hara – Chair
Dr Allan Brimicombe, University of East London
Andrew Watson, Metropolitan Police Service
Peter Cordingley, Home Office
Gareth Redmond, Home Office
Jackie Sinclair, NACRO
Jonathan Bamford, Information Commissioner’s Office
Farah Ahmed, Cabinet Office
Melissa Case, Ministry of Justice
Alison Cotterill, Home Office
Phil Golding, Office of the Senior Presiding Judge
Simon Denison, Ministry of Justice (Secretary)
Asha Odedra, Home Office
Will Perrin, Talk About Local
Paul Clarke, HonestlyReal
Iain Bell, Ministry of Justice
Francis Davey, practising barrister
Emer Coleman, Greater London Authority
Rebecca Bradfield, Home Office
Joe Tuke, Victim Commissioner’s Office
Jeff Gardner, Victim Support
Ailsa Beaton, Metropolitan Police Service
Kieron O’Hara welcomed attendees and brief introductions were given.
2. Minutes and update on actions
Minutes were agreed in the weeks following the 4 October meeting and were made available on data.gov.uk.
Action 1: Secretariat to contact Francis Davey to establish his interest in joining the panel.
- Complete - Francis Davey accepted an invitation to join the group, although was unable to attend this meeting.
Action 2: Rebecca Bradfield, Iain Bell, Emer Coleman and Will Perrin to meet to discuss local level testing of data releases.
- Not complete. This was due to the work pressures resulting from the public disorder and Autumn data releases. As none of those listed in were present Simon Denison will ask at the next meeting if the appetite for this still exists.
Action 3: Simon Denison to investigate international practice on publicising crime and justice information. To be fed back to Kieron O’Hara for him to consider the development of best practice in making court results data available to local communities.
- Partially complete. Simon Denison commissioned information from selected EU countries plus USA, New Zealand and Australia via MoJ International Directorate. Interim results were available and fed back to the panel, which indicated that, on balance, the UK was at the forefront of crime and justice transparency in light of the recent release of anonymised individual-level sentencing outcome and re-offending data.
Action 4: Iain Bell and Simon Denison to ensure that Ministers are sighted on the naming of offenders.
- Complete. Simon Denison has provided advice to Ministers on this issue in recent months.
Action 5: Rebecca Bradfield to progress a refresh of the transparency principles and distribute them at the next meeting of the Panel.
- Not complete. Due to other work pressures, especially around justice outcome mapping on Police.uk, this work has not been completed. Simon Denison to gauge whether there is still an appetite for this work at the next meeting.
Action 6: Meeting to be arranged between Martin Jones and Will Perrin to discuss specific instances of poor practice regarding the release of court results information to local media.
- Complete. Martin Jones (HMCTS Crown court operations), Mark Kram (HMCTS Press Office) and Simon Denison met Will Perrin and Will Gant and Guy Tobyn from Central News on 3 November. As a result of this meeting Martin Jones wrote out to London Crown courts to set out the information that journalists are entitled to receive from court staff.
Action 7: Simon Denison to investigate international best practice on publishing court results information, to be passed to Kieron O’Hara.
- Partially complete. This was a repeat of action 3.
Action 8: Kieron O’Hara to co-ordinate the development of a specification for an open court for consideration by the Senior Presiding Judge.
- Partially complete. Following the 3 November meeting between MoJ, HMCTS and Central News Will Perrin drafted a draft court transparency charter which he posted on his blog.
- Kieron O’Hara wished to test the panel’s appetite for the principles outlined in the draft charter, and in particular views from the judiciary, MoJ and HMCTS, before embarking on developing the specification. The charter was forwarded to Phil Golding, Melissa Case and Martin Jones for comment.
- Phil Golding stated that most of the principles included in the charter were entirely laudable but that a balance had to be struck between transparency and data protection, and that detailed analysis of individual issues was the most appropriate way to achieve this. He also raised the issue of operational constraints, and whether it may be possible to reinforce the messages in guidance to court staff on the release of information to ensure it is understood by all staff.
- Melissa Case pointed out that IT systems are not currently configured to handle all information requests and that work-arounds were costly, although MoJ/HMCTS should consider this in future procurement exercises. The need for rigorous cost-benefit analyses was also raised, as were the problems associated with naming defendants as opposed to offenders, and the impact that naming witnesses may have on engagement.
- Jonathan Bamford referred to the ICO paper on the data protection implications of publicising court results, and that the Data Protection Act included an explicit reference to fairness for all parties involved in the processing of personal data.
- The panel reached a consensus that the principles outlined in the charter could best be achieved by using a two stage approach, beginning with quick wins such as reinforcing guidance to staff and moving towards more ambitious work programmes once resources permit. The second stage would be considered as part of the strategy development work (see item 7).
Action 9: Simon Denison to forward Staffordshire evaluation report to Emer Coleman and further contact to arranged, if needed, through Martin Jones.
- Complete. Simon Denison sent this report to Emer Coleman on 10 October.
3. Feedback on October re-offending and November sentencing releases
- Simon Denison introduced this item and invited the panel to comment.
- The blog posts by Will Perrin, Paul Clarke and others were raised. An inquiry was raised on the hit rates to the data.
Action: Simon Denison to provide data on hit rates to the Making Sense of Criminal Justice site and downloads on justice.gov.uk at the next meeting.
- Melissa Case highlighted the helpful article in The Guardian following the sentencing release, and that the MoJ was committed to anonymised data as this was the public commitment.
- Allan Brimicombe asked whether a link could be provide from the Making Sense of Criminal Justice site to the source datasets on justice.gov.uk.
Action: Simon Denison to talk to the MoJ Digital Team and request a link is provided.
4. Update on January court data release and justice outcome mapping
- Simon Denison outlined the data items due to be published on court performance on 12 January, and highlighted that contextual information would be provided alongside the data to help explain the many factors affecting the data. Melissa Case stated that the data included civil and family courts, not just criminal as for previous releases, but highlighted general concerns on the sensitivity of some of these data as well as data quality.
- Gareth Redmond introduced the section on justice outcome mapping. He outlined the current progress of the project and some of the challenges facing the team, such as how to present complicated outcomes, data matching, resource implications for forces, how the data could potentially be used and protection of victims.
- Allan Brimicombe queried the geographical level at which justice outcome would be presented (street-level where possible) and whether identifiers or recording of crime locations would be used for data matching (identifiers). The issue of two different data sources, i.e. mapped data on police.uk and source data files, resulting in two different interactions with the site was raised, and noted by Gareth Redmond.
- The issue of how Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) would make use of the information was raised, and whether they could decide not to supply data once in post. It was indicated that current plans are that data supply would not be mandated and local discretion would be relied on. It was also pointed out that there should be no bureaucratic burden imposed that couldn’t be properly supported, and that the provision of these data raised difficult questions of accountability for the justice system, including whether PCCs may establish de facto targets using these data.
- Andrew Watson raised a number of interesting and potentially problematic issues. These included how cases with multiple victims and defendants would be recorded, how non-payment of fines would be classified, that the costs and justifications of data supply need to be made clear in advance of probable Freedom of Information requests, and the traditional institutional boundary between the police and the courts. These issues were noted by the chair and provoked an interesting discussion.
5. Anonymisation testing of re-offending and sentencing data releases
- Simon Denison introduced this item and talked through the paper. He explained that the testing had taken place due to the Prime Minister’s commitment to release anonymised data, as well as the desire to avoid financial liability through individuals being identified or mis-identified as well as the protection of victims’ identities. He went on to outline the process that had been followed and the outcome of the testing.
- Kieron O’Hara pointed out that this had taken place at short notice and that he was currently writing up a short report on the testing regime that preceded the data releases. He concurred with MoJ’s desire to ensure the data were as anonymised as was reasonably possible given the public commitment to release anonymised data.
- Jonathan Bamford and Kieron O’Hara pointed out that this represented a success story of potential issues being identified prior to release and suitable stress testing taking place to inform the eventual data release. The need for rigorous privacy impact assessments for all similar releases was raised by Andrew Watson due to the variable risk appetites of different data owners, and Phil Golding questioned the resource implications of testing every data release.
Action: Kieron O’Hara to circulate the URL for the report once completed.
6. Guidance to Police and Crime Commissioners on information regulations
- Peter Cordingley introduced the paper on Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). He highlighted the need to ensure adequate information is available to assess whether PCCs are delivering their objectives, in terms of both crime-related commitments and corporate processes, although warned that the right balance had to be struck between information provision and bureaucracy. London would go first in providing this information, as extant structures at City Hall - the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime - meant that the PCC function was already in place in London.
- Jonathan Bamford was clear that Freedom of Information Act publication schemes and information request processes need to apply when developing information regulations for PCCs, and warned against the potential for having a number of different regulatory vehicles in place as this would be contrary to the ‘better regulation’ agenda.
- There was a desire from the panel to know more about what the ‘Crime’ element of PCCs’ responsibilities would entail, especially in light of the current accountability vacuum for justice downstream from the police.
7. Draft strategic narrative to inform work in 2012/13 and beyond
- Gareth Redmond introduced the paper on the draft strategic narrative for crime and justice. He made clear that thinking was very much at an early stage, and that officials were trying to set out their ambitions for the agenda, set against what is realistic given resource constraints, as well as considering questions around the case for transparency and associated cost-benefit analyses. Kieron O’Hara reinforced the point around early thinking and emphasised that this was a genuine opportunity for the panel to feed in views.
- Melissa Case emphasised the need to establish a long-term sustainable position for transparency, set alongside the continued drive for totemic information releases. Central Office for Information (COI) principles around information handling were mentioned.
- There was not time for a full discussion of this item. Simon Denison agreed to request comments be provided on the paper out of committee, so that these could be fed into the development process in the new year.
Action: Simon Denison to request comments from panel members on the strategic narrative paper out of committee.
Action: Farah Ahmed to supply a contact at COI in order to source the information handling principles.
8. Any Other Business
- Kieron O’Hara asked the Secretariat to ensure an up-to-date contacts list was available for all panel members.
Action: Simon Denison to produce a contacts list in advance of next meeting.