If AI and blockchain can expedite the delivery of justice, that would be the best possible outcome in every which way. Image Credit: Supplied

In recent years, the two terms that have enjoyed increased utility are Artificial Intelligence and blockchain. You would struggle to find any study or article that does not emphasise the impact either or both have had on the evolution of most every industry.

From the financial sector to F&B, very little has not been positively affected by such technologies. The legal and judicial fields owe much of its recent growth to AI and blockchain under the wider umbrella of Internet of Things.

Discussion of AI in criminal courts has been proposed as a means to monitor and recognise defendants, support sentencing and bail decisions, and better assess evidence. Additionally, due to the rapid rise of risk assessment AI in the setting of bail or sentencing, the conversation around AI has exponentially grown.

Been there awhile

You would be surprised to know, however, that the effect of IoT on the judicial sector had been alluded to and studied as far back as 15 years ago, building towards a present where tech applications are being adopted by courts and legal aid groups to improve access to justice in the service of society.

On the one hand, the rise in interest in AI rose in tandem with the economic pressures courts were experiencing, heralded by budget cuts. Despite such financial constraints, courts are still expected to provide digital services to match the progress in other sectors, presenting a challenging situation.

How would courts be able to provide judicial services in sync with rapidly modernising service sectors given the circumstances? This is where AI comes into play by improving the quality and precision of the provided services while saving costs.

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Surveys are indicating that more people are feeling that courts are out of touch with the public, calling for greater empathy and engagement from them. AI can help courts better accomplish that task without adding adverse risks in the process, thereby gaining public favour and an added layer of efficiency the sector may have been hesitant to address.

By employing AI and benefiting from its potential, courts stand to establish greater procedural and distributive justice for litigants and, hopefully, bolster their legitimacy to the public and engagement with it.

But it’s not just cost efficiency and public perception that are driving the progress of the judicial sector. With the rise of data accessibility, online privacy has become an integral operational pillar to ensure the encryption and security of sensitive information regarding the status, identity or rights of a person or legal entity, namely commercial registers, land registries, civil registries, share registers, and patent or trademark registers.

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Blockchains allow for the secure registration of information and evidence that can be presented during court proceedings. It encrypts data using cryptographic hash values that would authenticate a file by crosschecking with its counterpart stored on the blockchain.

The security standards of blockchains are monumental, and it is almost impossible to erase information. As such, the conversation around its use in the judicial sector is still undergoing.

For example, regarding personal data, most privacy laws require that personal data be only stored under two conditions, that it is being stored for lawful or legal purposes for so long it is necessary to serve a purpose and that the concerned person would have the right of access to the stored information.

The latter stands exceptionally valid given people’s misunderstanding of digital privacy policies regarding their information. This creates a challenge to design the blockchain architecture and applications in a way that would be fully compliant with privacy laws and without creating any grey zones.

An approach that had been suggested was for blockchain to be restricted to proof of personal data (off-chain) rather than be a place of storage for original information. No matter where the conversation goes or how it evolves, the judicial sector is following suit to keep up with the times to ensure consistent engagement in a mission to provide the utmost in legal services.