The Government has confirmed its position as a law-and-order government with its investment in the justice sector. Corrections was the big winner with $1.9b for prison expansions and more frontline staff. Police also received $226m to fulfil the promise of 500 more police officers as well as $425m to support front-line policing with pay and equipment. 

This will be a welcome fillip in managing the increasing pressure on the justice system in what will no doubt be a growth period over the next few years. 

However, there is a risk that these pressures will instead bubble up in other parts of the system and the investment won’t have the desired impact. People will not feel safer if justice takes longer to be served, victims will not feel supported if community services are not available, and defendants will not have improved access to justice if important legal aid services are not available.  

With large-scale investment across the whole justice system unfeasible, maximising existing resources and working as a coherent, galvanised justice sector will be important in responding to these challenges. 

Better use of existing funding is one example and an option could be to revitalise and grow the Justice Sector Fund as a good example of pooled funding from agency baselines being directed to initiatives where they will be most effective. 

Frictionless data platforms can inform deployment decisions such as road policing or for better forecasting and prediction of the prison system. This allows for a more cohesive and comprehensive data analytics and decision making. This method has been used in private enterprises for years, allowing for more effective and quicker decision making and the associated benefits of increased productivity.

Generative AI can breakdown access to data and massively accelerate data collection on complex policy issues. This will include the increased use of generative AI for predictive forecasting of demand across the system, such as legal aid utilisation, probation and electronic monitoring services, fines and debt collection or even jury demand recruitment While generative AI has burst on the scene over the past 18 months, the use of AI is not new, what has changed is the accelerated pace of advancement and the democratisation of generative AI tools. This proliferation has led to an acceleration of the uptake and with it, the productivity dividend is being reaped across numerous enterprises, including the court system.  

The outbreak of Covid-19 taught us how to capitalise on technology to become more efficient, and to operate in a virtual world. It is important to embrace such changes and use it to continue to evolve and take advantage of such technologies to enable longer court hours, and with it provide more access to the justice system for all.

Some caution is needed.

With an embracing of technologies such as GenAI, and predictive, AI driven modelling, risks are more prevalent.  It is important that the right controls and guardrails are in place to mitigate such risks. Known risks such as biases and AI generated fiction presented as facts are just some of which we all need to be cautious. Effective controls, the right oversight, and checks and balances are required to ensure these risks are minimised.