Protecting vulnerable groups after Soham and Bichard: Is IT the solution, or part of the problem?
Increasing reliance is being placed on IT systems in criminal justice, to deliver ‘joined-up' justice and to monitor offenders. With the modern emphasis on managing risk of offending, we have seen the creation of various offender registers. Yet there are real concerns. A number of recent government IT projects in criminal justice have been over-ambitious. Initial enthusiasm for setting up systems is not always matched by the finance, staffing and administration necessary to maintain them. Of most concern in the development of these databases, however, is the slide away from basic principles of allegation and proof. Registers and record checks effectively ignore what was once a clear distinction between caution and conviction. Enhanced checks now include access to soft ‘intelligence' information about a person, which has not been tested in court or otherwise. Access to this material is being made available, not just to criminal justice professionals, but to the wider public.