ADJD automates criminal courts

Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has completed the roll out of a new Criminal Courts system which will automate procedures

Tags: Abu Dhabi Judicial Department ( CorporationUnited Arab Emirates
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ADJD automates criminal courts Khawla AlQubaisi, director of IT, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  March 21, 2016

Managing criminal court procedures can be an extremely complex task, requiring co-ordination between a large number of different parties such as judges, public prosecutors, clerks, lawyers, and the secure handling of sensitive documents, evidence and so on. Strict management is also critical to the proper execution of judicial processes. To ensure the smooth operation of all of the courts in Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) has adopted a number of digital solutions to automate processes, with its most recent project taking on the Criminal Court processes.

In 2013, ADJD successfully completed deployment of a Public Prosecution System, based on Oracle Siebel, which automated all of the handling of documents and processes related to the Public Prosecution (PPS). The Criminal Courts processes were being handled by an existing case management system, but because the new PPS had performed so well, and to provide more functionality and a fully integrated platform across all of the criminal process, the ADJD management decided to shift the Criminal Court to the Siebel Public Prosecution System as well. The new system has been launched on 31st January 2016.

Khawla AlQubaisi, director of IT, ADJD, explained: “Due to the complexity and duplicated efforts, management took a decision to consolidate those two systems and introduce one platform, which would handle the public prosecution and the criminal court processes, to meet the frequent business improvement requests, enhance both business users and customer experience and avoid wasting resources on developing the same functions and systems.

“The system will automate new processes which did not exist in the old system. These new capabilities are critical to the court and prosecution business and we successfully managed to deliver these capabilities to our business users,” she added.

Based on the previous experience with the PPS, the ADJD IT team developed the scope for the new Criminal Court system, assessing both the ‘as is’ requirements that would be needed by the court business users, and also adding new enhancements and capabilities that were missing from the previous system. The overall aim was to deliver a comprehensive end-to-end solution, which would provide capabilities to the public prosecution and criminal case in one system. The system covers all levels of the Criminal Courts systems, from Court of the First Instance to Court of Cassation (the highest level), and serves judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other parties to the criminal case. By integrating the Criminal Court System with the PPS, users would only have to use one system, with one set of logins, processes and reporting. The project also allowed the ADJD IT team to address any gaps or pending functional requirements for the criminal system as a whole.

One of the major challenges of deploying the project was that it coincided with a project that ADJD was undertaking with the Ministry of Interior, so it was necessary to push the MoI project to get completed before the Criminal Courts System could be put in place.

Another main consideration for the project was security, given the confidential and highly sensitive nature of the documents and data involved. ADJD has qualified for the ISO 27001 information security management standard, so was well equipped to design a system with differing levels of access for different users, and proper controls over documents.

ADJD worked with partners Emitac and Speridian Technology for some resource augmentation to the project team, and has also developed a strong inhouse capability around the Siebel solution. From an initial project with the Civil and Criminal Courts around eight years ago, ADJD made the decision to develop its inhouse personnel skills in Siebel, including training UAE nationals, across all of the skills required for the system. This allows the IT department to react quickly to any requests, AlQubaisi said: “Change happens frequently within ADJD, so it is not always easy to get the vendor to make changes, so we needed to build the capability inhouse to be able to deliver to the business users without delay.”

From initial design to go-live, the project took around nine months to complete, AlQubaisi said, and the new system has exceeded user expectations. ADJD now has a complete end to end automated business process that covers all of the criminal court processes, and gives the business users full control over the processes and workflow.

The system has re-engineered some of the Criminal Court processes and reduced the time required to complete case sessions related activities, which was an important user requirement, given that in most court sessions, a minimum of 30-40 cases have to be processed during the 3-4 hour long session. Judges and lawyers are able to access the system via screens in the actual courts or in their offices, and the system reduces the amount of navigation and number of steps involved in each process to make business as efficient as possible.

With around 500 hearing sessions taking place every day across all levels of the Criminal Courts, the new solution has also introduced an electronic hearing session calendar management, which allows for more efficient management of sessions and better management of time. All follow up procedures, filing of judgements and hearing notes, judicial decisions, notifications and so on are automatically created and logged by the system. ADJD’s existing electronic signature system has also been added to the system to improve authentication and security.

“Within those 500 sessions there are notes, court decisions and judgments, a huge amount of data is created as part of each session, because there are so many people involved, including the judge, the prosecutor, clerks, the parties involved in each case, so there are transactions created, there are notifications generated from the system to automatically update if there is a new hearing scheduled or approved judgment is processed, for instance,” AlQubaisi explained.

The large number of court sessions also produces a very large volume of data, and the Criminal Courts System has been integrated with DMS technology for archiving of criminal case data and files.

Another feature is advanced analytical reporting with regards to the criminal courts operations. ADJD is using analytics solutions from SAS to produce reports for both upper management and operations, to track and analyse areas such as workload, employee productivity, and court productivity and performance; and strategic reporting, to give upper management better insight and data for planning.

In the near future, ADJD is planning to expand the mobile capabilities of the application, which is currently available to public prosecution users, to extend it to Criminal Courts system users, which AlQubaisi said should be easily accomplished, and achieved in a cost effective manner.

ADJD is also looking at native integration of systems with other government entities, such as the Central Bank, Ministry of Labour, Abu Dhabi Municipality and Health Authority, to develop solutions where the different entities are required to interact, to speed up processes and reduce paperwork.

In the meantime, ADJD is conducting post-implementation reviews and is about to initiate a user survey, but has already received very positive feedback from the user base and has already delivered improvements to the system, AlQubaisi said. With a single solution for all of the Criminal Courts work, and the team’s experience in deploying the systems, ADJD is able to rapidly adapt and expand the system as necessary, to meet new requirements.

“Since we have launched the system, in this very short time frame, we implemented many additional enhancements and changes based on the business user’s feedback, which we have deployed to production and made available to the business user without any delay, because we feel that those are very important. We feel that it is very important that we have a quick response without compromising the quality of the deliverables,” she said.

“Development of new enhancements or changes to the Criminal Court process can be done faster and easier by the development team as there is no integration with any internal system required and this saves the involved teams’ efforts as well. We believe that the Criminal Courts and Public Prosecution System which has been developed in ADJD is one of a kind, we are proud of the team who have worked on the system, and we believe we have the best team in Abu Dhabi,” AlQubaisi concluded.

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