“Justice System Data” research: a comparative study

How do different countries manage the data, or information, that is generated by their justice systems?

Previous research and policy exercises have considered how such “justice system data” is collected, stored and disseminated in England and Wales, across criminal, civil and family courts.

Researchers at University of Sussex carried out a short study from April to August 2020 comparing how a sample of international jurisdictions manage the data arising from justice and court processes. 

As part of its new “Justice Lab UK” initiative and “Smarter Justice” research stream, The Legal Education Foundation commissioned this research project to gather information about the methods and approach various jurisdictions take to sharing justice system data for internal or external use. As well as conducting a background literature review, the researchers spoke to key stakeholders around the world, focussing on English-speaking common law jurisdictions. Our questions included: 

1. How other countries define “justice system data”. What are the categories they use to describe the different types of data generated by the justice system? This includes information like case files, judgments, management information, tribunal decisions etc.

2. What arrangements are in place for making this data available to different stakeholders (public/press/researchers/private sector) and how are they financed?

3. Where have other countries placed different types of data on the open/shared/closed spectrum?

4. Are these arrangements time limited e.g. closed until x date? To what extent have other countries delegated the function of data dissemination to the private sector?

5. What have been the benefits and drawbacks of the approaches developed in these countries? We are particularly interested in identifying robust research that is capable of demonstrating a link between the types of sharing practices adopted and: 

a. Judicial independence

b. Public understanding of the law

c. Public confidence in the justice system

d. Innovation

e. The attractiveness of the legal system as a forum for resolving disputes. 

The final report was published and launched at a remote event in July 2021. The final report and accompanying resources can be found here.

If you are interested in learning more about the project please contact the research team, via the details below:

Dr Judith Townend, Senior Lecturer in Media and Information Law,

This project was given ethical approval by the Social Sciences & Arts Cross-Schools Research Ethics Committee.