In October 2019, the House of Commons Justice Committee published the report of its inquiry into Court and Tribunal reforms (see the full report here). The inquiry was prompted by “[s]erious concerns… about the effect on access to justice and its efficient despatch of the current court and tribunal modernisation programme, led by the Ministry of Justice and the senior judiciary of England and Wales” (p.3). As part of the inquiry, Tom Smith (UWE Law), Marcus Keppel-Palmer (UWE Law), Sally Reardon ( UWE Journalism) and Phil Chamberlain (Journalism, University of Bath), submitted evidence on their research into court reporting in criminal courts:
“In January 2018, we held a project at Bristol Magistrates Court, attending every case held in open court during one week. During this period of time, only one case was attended by a reporter from local media. We fear that important work shining a light on the work of the Courts will continue to diminish.
During the project, a number of cases were conducted using video link. The positioning of the video screens in court meant that it was often difficult and, in some instances, impossible to follow the evidence being presented. Actually being present in court, researchers were able to clarify details with the CPS, something that will not be possible if the hearing is online.”
They argued that:
“Open Justice is held up to be one of the great values of our legal system. At a time when economics dictate that many local media outlets are closing or cutting back on staff, it would be detrimental to that principle if the Courts Service enacted changes to hearings that impacted further on the ease of reporting the courts.”
The Committee’s report recognised this problem, and
quoted the UWE team’s evidence as follows:
“The University of the West of England expressed concerns that the reform proposals would create further barriers preventing the reporting of the courts by the local media. They noted that: “[t]he number of dedicated Court Reporters on local newspapers is shrinking, and given the distances reporters would have to go to listen in on an online hearing at a booth at Court [this] can impose a further deterrent.” (p.54)
The UWE Bristol team are currently undertaking a national survey of court reporting during one month in 2019 and preparing to bid for funding to expand the empirical study, underpinned by the concept of ‘Justice Reporting’ – the idea that reporting on courts should go beyond merely relaying facts and case details, but should examine the processes and issues that form part of criminal cases.
The team has also presented its findings at the SLSA 2018
Conference, the What’s The News Conference 2018 in Brussels, the MECCSA 2019
Conference in Stirling, and the Future of Journalism 2019 Conference in
Cardiff, as well as presenting the research to visiting Chinese Judges.
Dr Michael Woodiwiss, Senior History Lecturer at UWE Bristol, has been recognised as a distinguished scholar in organised crime research by the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime for his contributions over the course of his career. He will receive his award at a ceremony on Thursday, November 14 at the American Society of Criminology at their annual meeting in San Francisco where he will be awarded a plaque in his honour.
Michael has been working at UWE Bristol since 1996 and is now a Senior Lecturer. His contributions include four acclaimed monographs, notably and most recently Double Crossed: The Failure of Organized Crime Control (Pluto and University of Chicago Press, 2017) and many more articles and chapters in books. Recent past winners of the award that demonstrates international esteem include Professor Michael Levi, University of Cardiff, Professor Jay Albanese, University of Virginia Commonwealth, and Professor James Jacobs, New York University, School of Law.
Michael is currently working on an interdisciplinary project with Mary Young (Law) about the construction of the international anti-money laundering regime.
In 2015, 10 Bristol City Football Club (BCFC) fans travelled independently to Birmingham to watch a game of football. On arrival, West Midlands Police (WMP) had identified them as ‘known hooligans.’ They were surrounded and escorted back to the train station where they were told to leave the city. The police relied on ‘dispersal powers’ vested to them under s 35 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. This gives a constable in uniform the authority to direct a person to leave an area if s/he has reasonable grounds to suspect that the individuals behaviour ‘has contributed or is likely to contribute to members of the public being harassed, alarmed or distressed or, crime or disorder in the locality’. The 2014 introduction of this legislation replaced s 27 Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, which in similar fashion also authorised a constable to ‘disperse’ provided disorder, or potential disorder, was alcohol related.
As the statement from the BCFC Supporters Club and Trust outlines, the 10 BCFC spectators always maintained that they had not, or had no intention, to partake in any disorder. They claimed they had been ‘falsely imprisoned’ on their ‘escort’ back to the station: arguably a breach of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Right to Liberty). Indeed, a constable may inform the individual/s to leave via a route if s/he wishes, but the legislation mentions nothing with regards to an ‘escort.’ That being said, escorts/containment can be justified if it is to ‘prevent and imminent breach of the peace.’ What was also slightly unusual regarding this case is that a serving police officer with Avon and Somerset Constabulary had agreed to be a witness in court in support of the 10 BCFC spectators. Nevertheless, this day did not happen as 24 hours prior to the court date, WMP offered to ‘settle’ out of court.
Indeed, the use of ‘dispersals’ amongst football fans has been a cause of concern amongst some academics and the Football Supporters Association for some time. In 2008, a number of Stoke City supporters visiting Manchester were escorted out of a pub, placed on buses and driven ‘home’ under the old s 27 powers. In total, Greater Manchester Police agreed an out of court settlement totalling around £200,000. Regarding the newer powers under s 35, a mini-bus carrying Wrexham supporters was stopped by Humberside Constabulary whom ordered to bus to turn around and return to Wrexham. The issue here, was that the police had used the powers in a blanket manner in ordering the mini-bus and all its passengers to return, as opposed to carrying out individual assessments. This led to a successful challenge in court from the Wrexham spectators whom received compensation.
What this demonstrates, is that the legislation can, and has, been used in an indiscriminate and often overzealous manner towards to fans of football, often without any real evidence as to why it is believed they pose a risk to disorder and arguably, and without any consideration towards there Article 5 obligations. Indeed, there is arguably a culture of policing towards football that requires change. A 2018 article by Dr James Hoggett and then Chief Superintendent Owen West of West Yorkshire Police advocate the use of Police Liaison Teams (PLTs) within football policing, rather than the use of the traditional ‘command and control’ approach. Common in the use of protests, PLTs have the ability to better read situations and ensure there are no unnecessary interventions from officers who may perceive a situation to be disorderly. For the authors however, the biggest barrier in adopting this style of approach to football is reluctance from many police officers themselves.
Perhaps indicative of this is the planned operation for the game between Portsmouth and Southampton on Tuesday 24th September 2019. Whilst in no doubt that this is a game that will be full of high emotions due to its ‘derby’ nature, a statement from the Commander overseeing the event has outlined that to ‘keep people safe’ help will be drawn in from ‘the dog units, the mounted section, roads policing, public order teams, drones and the use of the National Police Air Service.’ Clearly, an expensive use of resources. It has been repeated several times that on the face of it, football is changing for the better. It is important to note for the balance of fairness and relating back to WMP, that, to quote Amanda Jacks at the Football Supporters Association, ‘WMP did not have the best of reputations but in recent years, they’ve worked extremely hard and in my view, are one of the most progressive forces in the country.’ Perhaps, and with many things in life, it is a case of learning from mistakes, albeit expensive mistakes. Nevertheless, it is the often over-zealous and outdated mind set of many in authority that holds back a degree of change that is needed.
This post (edited for publication) is published on our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following the blogging success over the last couple of years, we decided to publish our students’ excellent work in this area again in this way. The module is an option in the second year of Bristol Law School’s LLB programme. It continues to be led by Associate Professor Dr Noëlle Quénivet. Using innovative learning and teaching methods, Noëlle developed this module to include the use of online portfolios within a partly student led curriculum. The posts in this series show the outstanding research and analytical abilities of students on our programmes. Views expressed in this blog post are those of the author only who consents to the publication.
By Anita Dangova
The social ambition of the European Union to enforce and maintain sustainable development commitments has led to a radical increase of the incorporation of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) labour standard conventions into European Union (EU) free trade agreements (FTAs) with third parties over the past two decades (at 265). In this blog post, I will show that labour standards can be effectively maintained via FTAs through a system of consultative measures. Although such a system can be criticised for being a ‘soft’ mechanism of dispute settlement it has proven successful to enforce labour standards agreed upon in FTAs between the EU and States. Using the recent consultations request by the EU regarding the failure of implementation of sustainable development provisions by South Korea as a case-study, I will particularly highlight how this soft resolution mechanism works with developed and developing states.
The EU’s Approach to Resolving Disputes
The EU ensures that disputes related to maintaining the ILO’s labour standard conventions in its FTAs are resolved through a cooperative and soft dispute resolution mechanism (Postnikov & Bastiaens, ‘Does Dialogue Work? The Effectiveness of Labor Standards in EU Preferential Trade Agreements’ (2014) 21 JERR 923, 925). This stands in contrast to the direct sanctions system used by the US as, in case of a dispute between the EU and a non-member state regarding failure to apply an FTA’s labour standards provisions, consultations are usually a pre-condition (Postnikov & Bastiaens). The table below explains the EU’s idea of resolving a dispute in a fair, friendly and equal-party manner by consultations, and not sanctions. That is why, in my opinion, the FTAs’ consultations system can be effective in maintaining labour standards’ provisions.
They are known as means of peaceful dispute settlement, as well as a tool towards a proactive work of both the parties (see Peters, ‘International Dispute Settlement: A Network of Cooperational Duties’ (2003) 14(1) EJIL 1, 2).
A good example to show how such a mechanism works is the recent discussions held in the framework of the EU-South Korea bilateral FTA. Indeed, a recent consultations request was made by the EU after establishing that Korea had failed to ratify the ILO conventions regarding the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining. Under article 14.3(1) of the FTA, either party can commence consultations, which are to be conducted in good faith and ‘with the aim of reaching mutually agreed solution’, when there is an issue regarding the implementation of the ILO labour standards, as defined under Chapter 13. Under article 14.4, unsuccessful consultations would initiate an arbitration procedure, leading to further costs, delay of settlement and intensified pressure. These consequences, therefore, can encourage Korea to ‘change its behaviour’ at the consultations, by acting in a meaningful way and eventually ratifying the labour standards, which the State is legally bound by the agreement to do.
Another example is the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) agreement under which matters, related to the implementation of labour standards, can be resolved with a recourse to consultations’ request, with the objective to reach a ‘mutually satisfactory resolution’ (article 23. 11). Therefore, we can see that the EU FTAs generally encourage maintenance of the labour standards provisions through soft dispute settlement mechanism, incorporating consultations. This additionally shows that the mechanism’s effectiveness in encouraging developed states to ratify the labour provisions, which they agreed to be bound by, is considerably recognised both in the law and in practice.
What about Developing States?
Under article 50 of the Cotonou Agreement, the parties, i.e. the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, reaffirm their commitment to enforce the application of five core ILO labour standards conventions (Abolition of Forced Labour; Freedom of Association; Collective Bargaining; No Discrimination; Abolition of Child Labour.) The first step of ensuring the effective implementation of article 50 is to conduct a political dialogue (article 8). This again reflects the EU’s idea of soft, yet effective, cooperation. When all options of dialogue are exhausted, the parties can commence diplomatic consultations (article 96(2)(a)). The provision expressly states that the consultations shall be conducted in a manner, appropriate to find a solution. In case of a failure to find a solution, ‘appropriate measures‘, such as compensation, can be taken. Aware of the subsequent pressure, which will be caused by those measures, the developing states will seek to avoid paying compensation and will thus after the consultations be incentivised to ratify the relevant labour standard conventions. That is why it can be argued that the consultations mechanism, adopted by the FTAs, is an effective way of maintaining labour standards in developing states.
The first stage (at 25) of labour standards dispute settlement is the following:
To assess the effectiveness of consultations more generally we can consider the WTO’s dispute resolution system as set out in article 4 of the Dispute Settlement Understanding. In case of a dispute between two member states, either one is capable of initiating a consultations request. Between 1 January 1995 and 31 December 2016, the system has dealt with 573 requests for consultations. Out of this number, it has issued about 350 mutually agreed dispute settlement decisions (see Reich, The Effectiveness of the WTO Dispute Settlement System: A Statistical Analysis, EUI Working Papers, Law 2017/11, at 4). Therefore, this constitutes a strong evidence that consultations are generally an effective way of settling disputes in the field of economic law.
In this blog post I have argued that the FTA consultations mechanism is an effective way of ensuring the implementation of labour standard commitments, based on the EU soft consultative dispute resolution system. I have, furthermore, showed that this system works with developing and developed states, basing my analysis on examples such as the Cotonou, EU-South Korea and CETA agreements.
Are you interested in upskilling your workforce and does the cost of training seem a barrier to accessing local talent?
This event provides an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from existing businesses who have apprentices at UWE, and how to make it work. In addition to this, we will be highlighting upcoming degree apprenticeships and further opportunities for your business to train your employees at degree level with the funding available.
UWE Bristol is the only university in the region with funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to support non-levy employers and has secured funding to support apprentices from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).
David Barrett, Director of Apprenticeships at UWE Bristol, will welcome you to the event and alongside the Degree Apprenticeship Hub team will be able to help identify your training needs and suitable solutions.
Spaces are limited for this event, so please register below.
If you have any questions about this event or degree apprenticeships please feel free to contact Ellen Parkes.
We are looking forward to meeting you and beginning the degree apprenticeship partnership journey.
The event takes place in the University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus from 15:00 – 17:00.
Corruption is a globalising phenomenon. Not only is it rapidly expanding globally but, more significantly, its causes, its means and forms of perpetration and its effects are more and more rooted in the many developments of globalisation. The Panama Papers, the FIFA scandals and the Petrobras case in Brazil are just a few examples of the rapid and alarming globalisation of corrupt practices in recent years. The lack of empirical evidence on corrupt schemes and a still imperfect dialogue between different disciplinary areas and between academic and practitioners hinder our knowledge of corruption as a global phenomenon and slow down the adoption of appropriate policy responses.
“Corruption in the Global Era” seeks to establish an interdisciplinary dialogue between theory and practice and between different disciplines and to provide a better understanding of the multifaceted aspects of corruption as a global phenomenon. The book gathers top experts across various fields of both the academic and the professional world – including criminology, economics, finance, journalism, law, legal ethics and philosophy of law – to analyze the causes and the forms of manifestation of corruption in the global context and in various sectors (sports, health care, finance, the press etc.) from the most disparate perspectives.
The theoretical frameworks elaborated by academics are here complemented by precious insider accounts on corruption in different areas, such as banking and finance and the press. The expanding links between corrupt practices and other global crimes, such as money laundering, fraud and human trafficking, are also explored. The book is an important resource to researchers, academics and students in the fields of law, criminology, sociology, economics and ethics, as well as professionals, particularly solicitors, barristers, businessmen and public servants.
In February 2019, Dr Tom Smith spent a week working in China as an expert consultant for a research and training project, entitled ‘Reducing pre-trial detention through improved defence and non-custodial alternatives’. The project forms part of a broad reform programme aimed at improving pre-trial detention practice in the Chinese criminal justice system, by lower detention rates; improving defence rights for suspects; and widening the use of non-custodial alternatives (such as conditional bail). A significant part of the reform programme is the introduction of pre-trial detention hearings (known as ‘official arrest hearings’). These can be most closely compared to a defendant’s first appearance in a Magistrates’ Court in England and Wales (although with a number of distinct differences). At present, these hearings are being piloted in a number of cities across China, with the aim of increasing the participatory nature of proceedings; improving the transparency of the process; and enhancing scrutiny of detention decision-making. The project is being co-ordinated by the Great Britain China Centre (based in London), in partnership with academics from the Centre for Criminal Justice Reform at Renmin University of China (Beijing), and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the People’s Republic of China (the national agency responsible for regulating criminal prosecution and investigation).
Tom’s primary role in this phase of the project was the design and delivery of training sessions for a variety of Chinese criminal justice professionals, including procurators (whose role is comparable to both a Magistrate and a prosecutor); defence lawyers; and police officers. The purpose of the training was to improve the professionalism of the procurators, lawyers and officers in two pilot cities (Shenzhen, in Guangdong province; and Hefei, in Anhui province). In addition, the training aimed to influence their approach to considering the protection of human rights in criminal justice proceedings by introducing perspectives on best practice in England and Wales, whilst providing a critical insight into our pre-trial detention system. The training sought to equip defence lawyers with knowledge and skills applicable to their role in pre-trial detention hearings, which is essentially an adversarial one. Tom was accompanied by criminal defence lawyer Luke Meyer, a Partner at Tuckers Solicitors in Kent. Together, they co-designed the structure of and materials for the training sessions (lasting a day in each pilot city), combining both academic and practical perspectives. The training covered topics such as the current structure of English and Welsh law on remand (i.e. court bail and pre-trial detention of defendants); insight into day-to-day practice in police stations and courts; a review of existing research on pre-trial detention in England and Wales (largely based on Tom and Professor Ed Cape’s report, ‘The Practice of Pre-trial Detention in England and Wales’); and a series of thematic sessions examining criminal legal aid, the use of video-link technology, alternatives to detention in custody, and impact on vulnerable groups of defendants.
Tom and Luke delivered the first training day in Shenzhen on February 22nd and 23rd, alongside sessions by leading Chinese academics and senior figures from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. On February 25th, they observed an official arrest hearing in Hefei, via video link technology. This offered first-hand experience of the practical implementation of the reform programme, involving a real-life criminal case. The figures involved included two procurators (acting in a similar capacity to Magistrates); a defence lawyer; two police officers (acting in a similar manner to prosecutors in England and Wales); and the defendant (who appeared via video-link). After the hearing concluded, Tom and Luke were invited to ask questions of the deciding procurators in the case as well as the participating police officers. This was a rare privilege: this might be equated to the opportunity to question a bench of Magistrates and a prosecutor about their handling of a remand decision, directly after completing it – something that simply would not happen in England and Wales. This underlines how unusual and important this opportunity was, and provided a significant and unique insight into the progress of the reform programme on the ground. The second day of training was then delivered in Hefei. During both training days, and during associated networking events, Tom and Luke met with procurators, lawyers, academics, and senior local and governmental officials, and answered a variety of questions about English and Welsh law and practice. They were also invited to offer recommendations for continuing the progress of the project.
The opportunity to be involved in this highly significant reform programme was an undoubted privilege. The processes being introduced in China are novel to its criminal justice system, which does not have the same legal traditions and adversarial roots as English and Welsh criminal procedure. The energy and effort that is being directed towards the programme by the various parties involved was impressive and engaging. It is worth remembering that these were two of several pilot cities across the country, involving and effecting thousands of people. Above all, the programme has clear potential for positive impact on the lives of criminal defendants in China, emphasising the protection of human rights, increasing the scrutiny of decision-making, and working towards reduced use of detention before trial. Such goals are shared by many jurisdictions, particularly in light of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which (SDG 16) includes reduction of unnecessary pre-trial detention. This is therefore likely to be part of the long-term agenda for reform in China and beyond. The chance to contribute to this project, by sharing knowledge and understanding of pre-trial detention practice in England and Wales, was a very positive experience. It is hoped that there will be further involvement in this project, as well as a wider strengthening of ties between UWE and China.
Featured researcher: Dr Thomas Smith
Thomas is an in Law and member of the Centre for Applied Legal Research. His research areas include pre-trial detention and bail; disclosure of evidence in criminal proceedings; criminal defence lawyers; access to justice and criminal legal aid.
Over the last week or so, football has been the focus of much negative press attention stemming from incidents of fan/player altercation. In Scotland, Glasgow Rangers captain James Tavernier was approached by a spectator in a game versus Hibernian. Shortly after in England, Aston Villa player Jack Grealish was hit from behind during a game against Birmingham City. The incident involving Jack Grealish was highly reported across the media and perpetrator, Paul Mitchell, was subsequently sentenced to 14 weeks imprisonment.
The defendant was charged with battery contrary to s 39 Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the football-specific offence of ‘pitch encroachment’ contrary to s 4 Football Offences Act 1991. As the blog by The Secret Barrister helpfully outlines, the maximum sentence for battery is 6 months, and taking in to account the guilty plea at the earliest opportunity and the then entitled one third deduction, the magistrates could have gone to 17 weeks. The maximum sentence for ‘pitch encroachment’ is a fine. Therefore, 14 weeks was certainly the top end of the scale and on the face of it, the sentence appears stern. Moreover, the defendant was also handed a 10-year Football Banning Order contrary to s 14a Football Spectators Act 1989.
On a note regarding the sentence handed down to Mitchell, many police officers took to Twitter to highlight the swift justice ( just a little over 24 hours) and the severity of the sentence when compared to those who assault police officers. For example, a defendant recently convicted of assault under the 2018 Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Actwas fined £120 and ordered to pay £50 compensation to the police officer he punched (see here). It has been suggested (in the absence of Sentencing Remarks) that the severity of the sentence handed to Mitchell was driven by the need for a deterrent, a legitimate aim of sentencing. Clearly, police officers may have a point here in asking where the deterrent is for those who assault officers going about their job. It is hard to imagine that a similar attack away from a football stadium would have resulted in a 14-week custodial sentence.
Despite the severity of the sentence, it is the knee-jerk and, to quote Stuart Hall, ‘short, simplifying and brutal’ media coverage and commentary that often follows disorder related to football that has been concerning. Following the incident involving Grealish, The Guardian reported that ‘football is urged to protect players’ whilst ex-footballer and current England Women’s manager Phil Neville drew the comparison to tennis player Monica Seles who was stabbed in the back during a tennis match in Hamburg in 1993, outlining his fears that if things do not change ‘a player will end up stabbed.’ The idea of fences returning to the stands was also mentioned and ex-footballer David Cotterill went one step further and suggested that armed police were needed at football matches to assist stewards. Whilst ex and current footballers are well within their rights to worry about their safety, some of the reporting and suggestions that the media give credit to are clearly ill-thought and nonsensical. Indeed, the media has often contributed to the moral panic that ensues when incidents such as this occur at football.
Emma Poulton has argued that the ‘hysterical headlines, emotive language and graphic imagery’ that often follow football related disorder contribute to the public viewing all fans of football as ‘hooligans,’ again, a concept that lacks a universal definition and is a construct of the media whom use it to cover an array of behaviour within the football context. What follows, and is true in this instance, is then an outburst for ‘collective punishment’ and headlines such as that in The Guardian that football needs ‘to do more’ to protect players or that armed police are necessary. Indeed, when alcohol was seen as a partial cause in 1985 to the Heysel Tragedy, again, fuelled by newspaper headlines, Parliament were quick to pass legislation that criminalised alcohol possession in direct view of the pitch. In similar vein following the Grealish incident, one media outlet published the opinions of a police officer who believes that cocaine is now a cause of much disorder at football.
Regarding Grealish, some perspective is clearly needed. The individual who attacked him was acting alone. Moreover, football fans are heavily policed and regulated in terms of legislation. As noted above, ‘pitch encroachment’ is a football specific offence and The Home Office’s own statistics demonstrate that arrests for ‘pitch encroachment’ are minimal; 188 arrests in 2015-16; 204 in 2016-17 and; 191 in 2017-18. I would argue many of these arrests take place during times of goal celebrations and not spectators running on the pitch to attack players. Moreover, and taking into account the millions who attend football, this is clearly a minute percentage. This was an isolated innocent and one that does not warrant the knee-jerk responses and ‘hysterical’ headlines that have followed.
It must not be forgotten that football is not unique in attracting disorder; many other sporting and social events attract disorderly behaviour, yet very rarely, if at all, do they attract such stigmatising or emotive headlines or suggestions. A prime example of this would be disorder at horse racing (see disorder involving 40-50 people here) or the 71 people arrested at the 2017 Glastonbury Festival for various offences ranging from drug offences, ABH and possession of an offensive weapon. The point here, is that football is targeted by the media and some members of society in a manner that no other events are.
Clearly, the media and commentators play a role in how football and its fans are perceived. The moral panic that ensues football is unique, in that no other sporting or societal event attracts such condemnation; condemnation that has led to an abundance of football-specific legislation being implemented. Therefore, and despite the media soundbites, football is heavily protected. There is no need to return to fencing in front of the stands, and clearly no need for officers at football to be armed. Statements like this by the media are irresponsible and indicative of what football and its fans have had to witness since the mid twentieth century. The result is a moral panic and a tarnishing of all spectators who pay a lot of money to watch football. As commented by Chief Superintendent Owen West of West Yorkshire Police, ‘one person did an idiotic and criminal act.’ This should not be forgotten, and you cannot legislate for the actions of one mindless individual.
On Wednesday 30 January at UWE Bristol, Dr Mary Alice Young convened an interdisciplinary research event on the role of technology and the intelligent machine in organized crime. The event was supported by the Centre for Applied Legal Research and the Criminal Justice Unit. There were 60 attendees in total, including a group of senior investigators from the Metropolitan Police Service, law enforcement officers from the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit, Embassy attaches, investigators from HMRC, and colleagues from UWE’s departments including, Artificial Intelligence, History, Forensics, International Relations, Geography and Criminology. 25 students also attended (representing three faculties), and made valuable contributions to the discussion and connections with potential employers.
Since the event on 30 January, Dr Young has been successful with a number of publications and planning upcoming workshops.
Dr Young’s interdisciplinary article, ‘Organised Crime and Security Threats in Caribbean Small Island Developing States: A Critical Analysis of US Assumptions and Policies’, has been accepted for publication by the European Review of Organised Crime, with one reviewer stating that it ‘re-orientates a long standing misreading of the Caribbean reality’ of organized crime. Dr Mike Woodiwiss (History, UWE Bristol) is the second author, and the work builds on interviews and field research carried out in Jamaica in 2018.
Dr Young’s forthcoming paper on the untold truth of the architecture of anti-money laundering policies has been accepted for discussion at the Tax Justice Network’s annual conference in July 2019 at City University, London.
Dr Young will also convene a plenary workshop on enablers of organised financial crime, and host the closed Think Tank on Organised Crime in September 2019, at the Cambridge International Economic Crime Symposium, Jesus College.
This event had 3 different panels speaking for about 30 minutes each regarding the use of algorithms in the justice system. The talks were a mix of practical and managerial algorithms. Both had aspects that were interesting to our teaching and research, as well as elements that were irrelevant.
The commission opened by making the point that we are not asking the correct questions concerning the use of algorithms in the justice system. We are not asking what ‘values’ underpin their usage (for example, issues like transparency and ‘explainability’). All panellists agreed that this is a growth area but the swift growth causes a number of concerns. Firstly, how do we define the ‘values’ that need to underpin the tech and its usage in law?
A major concern rests on the fact that algorithms are often opaque systems for decision making and there is a problem with ‘explainability’ (i.e. we cannot extract from machine learning the rationale for why the algorithm arrived at a particular conclusion). Arguably, this raises a red flag for lawyers in terms of justification of decisions to those affected, and especially for the potential conflict between Freedom of Expression and the use of AI to tackle forms of extremism in England and Wales.
There is a further problem with the lack of emotional intelligence associated with the use of AI. This raises questions about the lack discretion afforded to humans in legal systems when allowing machine learning to make decisions. Much of modern policing is done by using discretionary powers – a concern is the potential for the use of AI to allow the criminal justice ‘net’ to widen disproportionately and without adequate safeguarding. Additionally, if there is an element of human discretion operating alongside AI, who do we defer to in making final decisions (a classic man vs. machine argument)? This raises questions about the risk of humans delegating responsibility (and thus accountability) to machines.
As well as these elements, we need to answer questions concerning data control. What happens to the data that is generated by machine learning?
A further problem exists concerning the language being unpicked by the AI. We have many different languages spoken/written in society. Coupled with this we have local spoken/written language. Finally, we have code spoken by offenders to avoid detection on social media (for example in organised dogfighting). The dogfighting articlesuggests that there is an informal code spoken on social media to alert likeminded individuals to events and dogs for sale – how can the AI pick up such information? This would require continuous human input and updating to ensure that those targeting by such technologies cannot evade justice by ‘gaming’ such systems.
Ed asked a question about the Harm Assessment Risk Tool (HART) being used by Durham Constabulary but sadly it was not answered. I wonder what risks exist in using an algorithm to make bail decisions post-conviction. However, with the advent of the Released under Investigation status used frequently by police officers and the reduction of the use bail, this is perhaps not an issue (however, that feels very much like fudging the numbers to appear successful – this new unregulated status may in fact be a retrograde step which undermines attempts to reduce unnecessary use of bail).
There are positives to the technology. The Facial Recognition software described by a Police Inspector appeared to be very beneficial. There are some 12 million images in the Police National Database and the average officer will upload 30 new images per day. Previously, there would be a 12 day wait to try and identify a suspect from the database. The new software will provide a result in 5 minutes. This is of particular benefit when tackling crowd disorder at sporting events. Previously, officers would have to stick their heads out the window of a police van to identify someone. Now the software can scan all individuals in a crowd. Whilst this has clear practical benefit there was little regard for the potential breach of civil liberties or discussion about training for officers on responsible and effective use.
Finally, the panel spoke of the need for regulation and the panels tried to centre in on accountability, oversight and transparency. We need to know a) how will the use be regulated (soft regulation or by legislation) or b) what happens if the evidence is wrongly used. We can exclude evidence under s.78 PACE 1984 currently, but does this broad protection go far enough?
Lots of questions, not many answers. It’s clear that this is a ‘sexy’ and attractive area of law, which is being pioneered primarily in other jurisdictions. Whilst the desire not to be left behind and to utilise technology effectively in the digital age is understandable, this area also potentially poses great danger. The use needs to be carefully considered from a protective, due process standpoint rather than focusing solely on the practical benefits of the technology to crime control and enforcement.