The Digital Era in our Criminal Justice System

The collection and management of evidence in the criminal justice system is changing. Check that, it has changed. While remnants of the past remain, the capture, management and disclosure of evidence in criminal proceedings is moving toward an exclusively digital format. Eldon Amoroso, Technical Advisor, ICT Committee wrote about this change in his article, Warning: A Tidal Wave of Digital Evidence is Coming. This change comes at a time when the collection and capture of evidence is producing a significant amount of electronic data. Phone dumps can be in the GB size and major cases require significant storage and management capacity. Most prosecution services and defence law firms are ill-equipped to manage this. As Lance Valcour notes in his article, Digital evidence management in Canada: How R. vs Jordan is changing the game, many police services and prosecution offices are still relying on internal storage solutions and DVDs for evidence sharing and disclosure. Some companies have recognized this and stepped in with solutions. Their solutions are well suited to the needs of the justice system and undoubtedly are welcomed by front line workers (police, prosecutors and defence counsel). As Valcour comments, it is “great news” that police and prosecution are “collaborating with Canadian companies to let them provide these kinds of services” so police and prosecutors can do their jobs for our communities.

Axon is one of those companies. The company has developed a digital evidence management system for prosecution services and reports having more than 100,000 licences for prosecution office around the world. This management system includes Axon Convert, which “is a standalone software solution that converts and views unplayable file formats, including proprietary CCTV files, with ease. It ingests and converts files in minutes with only a few clicks, making manual conversion a thing of the past”. With the increasing number of surveillance cameras, both publicly and privately owned, this tool will no doubt be an invaluable asset. The company ensures the authenticity of evidence with Axon Detect which allows the user to “determine whether an image is an unaltered original, an original generated by a specific device, or the result of manipulation with photo editing software”. Most notably, perhaps, with the increasing volume of digital disclosure, the storage and evidence management capacity of the Axon’s cloud storage/evidence management is exactly the sort of innovation and support needed – Axon makes their case for moving digital evidence to the cloud.

Intrensic is a similar company. They also offer cloud based storage and as with Axon, offer “unlimited, secure storage”. They too, like Axon, offer police and prosecution models. Police models aimed at more efficient digital first capture of evidence and storage and management solutions.

VeriPic is another company offering similar solutions. Their solutions appear to be more focused on police and less clear and unique models for prosecution services. Nonetheless, their police suite of products include body worn cameras and mug shot systems.

Axon and companies like it are moving in to offer solutions for police forces in the capture and management of their digital evidence. Similarly, for prosecution services, they offer storage and evidence management software solutions. The next logical and much needed steps is to see this kind of technology in the court management system. Most courtrooms in Canada maintain an antiquated process of collecting and managing exhibits and court Indictments and Informations. The time has come to find online solutions to store and manage this material. As Amoroso points out in his article, “[t]he real tragedy would be if we fail to leverage all the capabilities of innovative technology, such as coloud based platforms, in our future digital evidence management solutions”.

The criminal justice system is changing. Check that. It has changed. But the changes are not over. And that is good news.