Crime and Justice Transparency Sector Panel - 13 March 2012

Crime and Justice Transparency Sector Panel

13 March 2012

LG Room 8, 102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ

Attendees

Dr Kieron O’Hara – Chair

Dr Allan Brimicombe, University of East London

Andrew Watson, Metropolitan Police Service

Jonathan Bamford, Information Commissioner’s Office

Farah Ahmed, Cabinet Office

Martin Jones, Ministry of Justice

Liz Eaton, Ministry of Justice

Alison Cotterill, Home Office

Simon Denison, Ministry of Justice (Secretary)

Asha Odedra, Home Office

Iain Bell, Ministry of Justice

Francis Davey, practising barrister

Will Perrin, Talk about Local

Janet Hughes, Greater London Authority

Dan Lewis, Economic Policy Centre

Adam Thompson, Home Office

Deborah Babarinsa, Ministry of Justice (minute taker)

Apologies

Jackie Sinclair, NACRO

Paul Clarke, HonestlyReal

Jeff Gardner, Victim Support

Joe Tuke, Victim Commissioner’s Office

Liam Maxwell, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

Tim Kelsey, Cabinet Office

1. Welcome

Kieron O’Hara welcomed attendees and brief introductions were given.

2. Minutes and update on action points at last meeting

Actions from meetings prior to 13 December:

Action 1: Rebecca Bradfield, Iain Bell, Emer Coleman and Will Perrin to meet and discuss local level testing of data releases.

  • Not to be taken forward. Iain Bell agreed that this will be borne in mind for the May release of justice outcome information.

Action 2: Simon Denison to investigate international best practice on publicising crime and justice information.

  • Complete. Simon Denison updated the group by saying that the UK is the world leader in terms of national provision of information to the public on justice system performance. Will Perrin thought that local provision would have been a more useful measure; his concerns were noted.

Action 3: Rebecca Bradfield to progress a refresh of the transparency principles and distribute them at the next meeting.

  • Not to be taken forward. Work on departmental Open Data Strategies (due for publication in the Spring) will supercede this action.

Action 4: Kieron O’Hara to co-ordinate the development of a specification for an open court for consideration by the SPJ.

  • Complete. Will Perrin’s open court charter is a useful starting point and the issues it raises were discussed by the panel, including by the Office of the SPJ, at the 13 December panel meeting.

Minutes of meeting of 13 December are available on data.gov.uk.

Action 1: Simon Denison to provide data on hit rates to the Making Sense of Criminal Justice site and downloads on justice.gov.uk

  • Partially complete. Simon will provide the data with these minutes..

Action 2: Simon Denison to talk to the MoJ Digital Team and request a link is provided.

  • Complete. Links are already provided at the bottom of the statistics pages on the Open Justice microsite (‘About these statistics’ links).

Action 3: Kieron O’Hara to circulate the URL for his report on anonymisation testing once completed.

  • Complete.

Action 4: Simon Denison to request comments from panel members on the strategic narrative paper out of committee.

  • Complete. Draft narrative is to be discussed at item 6.

Action 5: Farah Ahmed to supply a contact at COI in order to source information handling principles.

  • Complete.

Action 6: Simon Denison to produce a contacts list in advance of next meeting.

  • Not complete. Simon will ensure that it is sent with the minutes.

3. Update on meeting between HM Courts and Tribunals Service and Central News regarding availability of courts listings and results information

  • Martin Jones (ex-head of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) Crown Court business) stated that following the meeting on 3 November 2011 he wrote to London court managers and asked them to be mindful of HMCTS guidance regarding provision of information. He also stated at the meeting it is important the provision of information does not impede court business and that bespoke information is not feasible due to operational constraints. He acknowledged that administrative data systems were often not helpful in this regard and that HMCTS is looking into providing more criminal court listings information, such as offence charged. However he was careful to say this was only feasibility testing at present. Iain Bell was keen to point out that significant technical and practical challenges remain.

  • Will Perrin asked whether listings and results information could be posted on the internet and be freely available to the public rather than just journalists. He was concerned that open justice was a non-codified principle of the justice system that had to compete with a range of codified constraints such as data protection and copyright legislation and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. He thought compiling a stratified list of constraints would be a useful exercise to encourage open justice at the local level.

  • Francis Davey encouraged the panel to remember civil cases, and that listings data for these was often behind a paywall. He asked if listings information can be posted on the wall of a court, why can’t it just be posted on the internet?

  • Simon Denison advised that HMCTS were looking at the feasibility of providing more information on criminal court listings but that new data were not likely to be available in the short term.

4. Delivery of police.uk and implications for data developers

  • Dan Lewis (Economic Policy Centre) talked to a paper on his work to produce a crime data aggregator site, his concerns on the delivery of Police.uk and its effect on the developer community in the sector.

  • Dan outlined a number of concerns:

    • Releasing raw data quickly does not encourage an open data economy due to the time needed to clean the data before re-use. The need for points of interest to match up between different geo-location datasets was also raised (e.g. Garmin versus Ordnance Survey).

    • Developer numbers in the crime sector are decreasing over time.

    • The release of a free Police.uk app impacted significantly on the private sector market.

    • A lack of data governance by forces – different recording systems made data re-use difficult.

    • The silent changing of files (e.g. changing location details) made sustainable use of the data problematic.

    • Police.uk is prejudicial to a thriving open data economy as it represents a vertically integrated monopoly. This will be compounded with the release of justice outcome information in May.

    • Rock Kitchen Harris (the police.uk contractor) accrues an unfair competitive advantage.

    • Police.uk receives unfair political endorsement.

    • The British Transport Police (BTP) data on Police.uk is incomplete in its raw form, making it impossible to replicate for developers.

  • In summary, Dan thought that private-sector crime data developers should be allowed to thrive in an open, free and competitive environment, unimpeded by unfair competition with government websites.

  • Will Perrin stated that innovative uses of data frequently came from the private sector and gave the example of the cricinfo site versus bbc.co.uk.

  • Iain Bell raised the example of the ASBarometer site that had been developed to show the location of Anti-Social Behaviour incidents, but that was not updated following the lead developer moving to a different job. Iain contended that Government has a duty to supply a certain level of information, but that there was a balance to be struck. He was happy to work with Dan in the run-up to justice outcome information being released on Police.uk, and said he is looking to enable pre-release access to justice outcome information for developers.

  • Andrew Watson responded on the BTP point. He stated that the different funding model for BTP compared to territorial forces (by train companies rather than Government) raised significant sensitivity in releasing crime data and that footfall data raised issues of commercial sensitivity.

  • Janet Hughes asked that the Rock Kitchen Harris contract be publically released and whether there had been a lessons learned exercise undertaken that could inform the next Police.uk contract.

Action: Adam Thompson to discuss with the Home Office and National Policing Improvement Agency whether the contract could be released.

Action: Adam Thompson to examine the possibility of holding a lessons learned exercise on the delivery of Police.uk to date.

  • Francis Davey pointed out that with the release of useable data innovative apps can be developed and then used by the public sector, such as Fix my Street, and that this retains a primary role for the private sector in promoting innovation.

  • Dan suggested the following next steps:

    • The Home Office (HO) should not duplicate existing capabilities of UKCrimeStats or any other 3rd party crime data developer;

    • Not integrate crime and justice outcomes into police.uk, rather give 3rd party developers a chance;

    • No further developments of police.uk and other similar sites – only publish monthly crime data updates;

    • Police.uk mobile app to be discontinued;

    • All existing datasets used by Government sponsored crime websites be made available to all developers and

    • Set a date to stop updating police.uk thereby enabling other developers to blossom.

  1.  
    • Allan Brimicombe contributed by saying that wards (a common category in crime data) are too big, and that crimes are mapped to the centre of streets even though boundaries are often located there: both of these make meaningful analysis difficult, especially in high crime areas.

6. Crime and Justice Transparency Strategy

  • Kieron O’Hara referred panel members to the draft strategy document. The paper sets out an approach to driving greater transparency across the justice system, including progress to date, our future approach, potential areas of work and key challenges.

  • The aim is to deliver the most effective and transparent justice system in the world. The launch of Police.uk already gives access to street-level crime and anti-social behaviour data, and HO/MoJ will be publishing justice outcome information on Police.uk in May, but there is an ambition to move further than this. Data will continue to be available in an open and standardised format to enable developers, the private sector and the public to make use of it in innovative ways. There are plans to move to a ‘demand led’ approach of publishing information and engage with data experts and users to release data which enables communities to shape the delivery of local services and make them truly accountable.

  • Kieron O’Hara had a number of comments. The first was to ensure that the full range of data users is borne in mind as the current conception was too narrow; he also recommended liasing with the newly-formed Open Data Institute in this regard. He also mentioned the need to retain operational independence of datasets where there was a demonstrated advantage in doing so.

  • Janet Hughes also thought that more was needed on stakeholder analysis as the strategy focused excessively on developers to the exclusion of other people who might want to use the data, including scrutineers and researchers.

  • Allan Brimicombe warned against confusing interest with impact, and also asked whether public feedback will be acted on transparently. He also asked whether business cases would be published when complete.

  • Will Perrin thought the strategy was too upbeat on the current situation, and that the potential work to publish judges’ remarks more widely would run into issues of copyright. Francis Davey advised there was provision for privately-owned information to be re-used publicly under current copyright law (e.g. Companies’ House data). Will also thought the objectives should explicitly state that improved justice outcomes was an aim of the transparency agenda.

  • Iain Bell stated that MoJ data can’t ever be truly open but that there is plenty of room for making it more open. He was also keen to have work on improving data sharing more visible in the strategy.

  • Jonathan Bamford thought the paper should explicitly state that transparency does not want to impede markets and doesn’t want to undermine confidence in the CJS. He was keen to state that data protection law should not be used as shorthand for a range of other public policy issues such as rehabilitation of offenders and the protection of freedoms bill. He also pointed out that fears around privacy in relation to Police.uk were still in existence even if actions had been put in place to mitigate them.

  • Andrew Watson followed on data protection law – data protection should not be a reason not to do something, but just required a robust process of risk analysis and acceptance where they could not be fully mitigated. He also commented on the impact on victims of street-level crime data.

7. Update on Justice outcome mapping on police.uk

  • Adam Thompson updated the panel on work to deliver justice outcome information on Police.uk in May. He mentioned the need to understand the proportion of crimes being dealt with at each stage. The majority of reported crimes will have no resolution as in 72% of cases, following investigation there is insufficient evidence to bring an offender to justice; a further 12% receive a caution, local resolution etc. About 16% of reported crimes make it into the court system.

  • Outcomes will be anonymised to protect privacy and the data will be published in a re-useable format as well as being displayed on Police.uk. Currently, it is expected that about 60% of reported crimes that proceed to court can be matched to an outcome, although this varies significantly between areas and is improving.

  • The Home Office is working with police forces to improve the matching rate. HO and MoJ are also developing a communications plan which includes information on the methodology, matching process, and contextual information that will be provided.

  • There are plans to evaluate how the public are using the crime and justice data provided via Police.uk in order to inform future developments. Panel members discussed the fact that some forces are more advanced than others which could lead to inconsistency in data recording if some crimes are not linked to an outcome.

8. Broadcasting court proceedings

  • Liz Eaton provided an update on the Government’s position on broadcasting of court proceedings. She stated the Justice Secretary’s decision to legislate to allow broadcasting from courts, starting with the Court of Appeal with a view to moving to the Crown court at a later date. She advised that primary legislation is required, and that the protection of victims and witnesses would be paramount., especially when broadcasting is rolled out in the Crown court. She also advised that technical and operational issues are being discussed by MoJ, HMCTS and the Judiciary.

  • Will Perrin raised the issue of copyright of video broadcast and who would have ownership rights. He also mentioned that local television stations should have free access to the footage as the cost of purchase could restrict wider access.

9. Any Other Business

  • Francis Davey asked how interested parties could intiate a discussion around the release of data sets for their use. Simon Denison advised that contact should be made with him.