A new way to collect and share digital evidence is coming to the Scottish criminal justice sector. This update provides information about this will affect criminal defence practitioners.
New technology is to be rolled out across the criminal justice system in Scotland that will modernise how documentary evidence is collected, managed, and shared – allowing users such as police officers, prosecutors, court staff and defence agents to digitally access evidence in an efficient, quicker and more user-friendly way.
The new digital evidence sharing system will improve the disclosure process, eliminate the need to rely on hard media such as pen drives or DVDs to share evidence, increase data security and improve disclosure.
The ‘DESC’ programme (‘Digital Evidence Sharing Capability’) is a collaboration among the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, and defence solicitors. It aims to transform the way that digital evidence is managed throughout criminal investigations and prosecution processes. The programme is one of the leading collaborative justice technology programmes in the world.
The programme is currently procuring a software partner who will help develop and implement the DESC platform. A pilot of DESC is due to start in spring 2022.
What is changing?
DESC will be a common technology platform that will store digital evidence and allow it to be shared between police, prosecutor, the defence practitioner and court as and when required.
Evidence within DESC will be shared with defence practitioners through a new, modernised version of the current ‘Secure Disclosure Website’ which will form part of a new “Defence Agent Service” to be provided by COPFS. The new and improved disclosure system will be simpler and allow digital evidence such as CCTV evidence to be shared online rather than by physically transporting it via DVDs or pen drives as is currently the process.
The new evidence sharing system will allow:
- Police to gather evidence and store it in the DESC solution (collection and ingestion)
- Police to digitally share evidence with COPFS (revelation)
- COPFS to digitally share evidence with defence practitioners (disclosure and advanced disclosure)
- Evidence to be shown digitally in the court (presentation)
- DESC aims to help the partners provide a better public service and provide a platform for further modernisation.
What are the anticipated benefits of DESC to criminal court practitioners?
DESC will seek to simplify existing processes at every stage of a case:
- Disclosure of digital evidence will be easier and quicker to access
- More disclosure will take place online without the need to obtain hard media such as pen drives or DVDs
- Disclosed CCTV evidence will be in a common, consistent format
- There will be less need for physical collection and signing for media such as pen drives or discs
- It will be easier to view digital evidence
- Data security will be much improved with less risk of DVDs and pen drives being lost or mislaid
- There will be less work/expense in securely storing digital evidence
- There will be less work in cleansing/returning/archiving hard media containing digital evidence
- DESC will allow digital evidence provided by disclosure to be more focused, saving time in poring over long pieces of footage to identify the incident in question.
Keeping you informed
COPFS will be liaising with defence practitioners to inform them of the development of DESC and ensure that the needs of defence practitioners have been taken into account.
The DESC Programme will provide further updates to defence practitioners as the Programme continues. A consultative group is planned to be between COPFS and representatives of the defence practitioners to ensure that the services are designed to meet user requirements and to obtain their input into the development of the DESC at the earliest opportunity.
If you have questions about DESC, or would like to be involved in consultative group, please contact the DESC Programme team at COPFS.