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Artificial Intelligence could prevent disclosure failings


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NPCC chairman says new guidelines will place added pressure on detectives and could slow investigations.


Chief Constable Sara Thornton

Investing in new technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) could resolve disclosure failures.

In the wake of a series of investigatory shortcomings, National Police Chiefs' Council Chairman Sara Thornton says it is “critical” to combat these issues, and the introduction of AI could be the answer.

CC Thornton said investigation and appropriate disclosure is as “old as policing” but forces are being inundated with masses of data, thus an increase in potential lines of inquiry.

“Longer term, if technology is the challenge, it’s also got to be part of the solution,” she added.

The NPCC is currently working with the CPS to explore “clever tech”, including AI or machine learning, that could assist forces in improving the investigatory process by automatically sifting through information, saving hours of manual labour.

Both have also liaised to address the flaws in recent cases, including the collapsed case of Liam Allan who was accused of rape, and now have a “good joint plan.”

The strategy aims to review training on disclosure, develop a cadre of specialist and experienced disclosure experts in every force and provide all multimedia evidence from the CPS to the defence via direct electronic link by July.

The document also commits to reviewing whether there "should be a requirement for officers to hold a Licence to Practise in respect of disclosure" by January 2019.

However, a rise in demand - bought on by new guidelines - means that investigations may temporarily face delays, according to CC Thornton.

She said: “Getting this right means we are asking investigators to do more at a time when we have a shortage of detectives and many other complex demands. 

“We must be honest that this may slow investigations in the short term and forces will have to consider moving resources.”

CC Thornton also points out there is a cultural problem which needs to shift where officers see disclosure as an administrative task at the end of the process rather than being integral from the beginning. 

She continued: “New technology, adequate numbers of investigators, effective joint working with prosecutors and the right mind-set all need to be part of our response to recent failed cases.

“The integrity of the criminal justice system depends upon us making improvements.”

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