Doing data justice

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Thomas Pope; Gavin Freeguard; Sophie Metcalfe

September 19, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government looks at improving how data is collected, managed and used in the justice system.

Data in the justice system has more gaps than other public services, data is often of poor quality, and data analysis is not playing as large a role as it should in evaluating current policy and driving new initiatives. This report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, finds that there are several exciting initiatives to use data in novel ways across criminal, family and civil justice, and there has been progress in recent years, as data and analysis has grown in importance at the MoJ in particular.

But effective use of data is undermined by a fragmented system of many different organisations, including the Home Office, MoJ, HMCTS, CPS, CAFCASS and a dizzying array of other acronyms, with different objectives for the use of data, their own systems and their own data practices. This means data is rarely joined up and is not being used to its full potential.

To address this, the report recommends the government develops a cross-system strategy, owned collectively by key organisations across justice, to agree priorities for data and a coordinated approach to data sharing. It also recommends the MoJ and others should take steps to engage better with external researchers and do more to publicise the successes of existing initiatives.

The justice system is facing many challenges, including large backlogs in courts and tribunals, with squeezed budgets. In that context, data might not seem like a priority. But it is essential to deliver the services the public expects by helping the system operate as effectively as possible and to design better policy. The findings of this report was informed by two editions of the IfG’s Data Bites event series.