Differences in the data collection procedure between criminal and civil justice data
In the judicial data collection some of the requirements and organisational rules for the information management seem to be quite the same both in criminal and in civil matter, mostly if the collection is assisted by a computerized database1.
The similarities can be found in the following items:
- the need to respond to one of the main objective of a trial: rendering available and transparent to the external users as much as possible of the trial workflow and decisional process of the judge/court, in the due respect of the specific national law and under the guideline of the European Convention on Human Rights, article 6;
- the aim of improving efficiency of courts in the data management, helping internal users in their daily tasks;
- the general security characteristics katevery IT system should respect, according to the European and international legal charts, directives and recommendations:
- the capability of giving information for the evaluation of the performance of the courts and of the public prosecutor offices.
About this last item, it can be recalled an important document from the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), instituted within the Council of Europe:
- the Time management checklist of indicators for the analysis of lengths of proceedings in the Justice system3.
Each of the six standards elaborated by CEPEJ sends to the provision of adequate IT systems, which go through every step of the trial and register every relevant information about the trial workflow.
Another important point must be focused and is common and shared by the data collection in both the matters (criminal and civil subjects):
- the use of data in statistics is anonymous, so that, if anonymity is effective, there is usually no question about protection of individuals in the use of the information subsequent to the trial phases.
On the other hand, differences (between collecting data in criminal or in civil matters) could derive from some specific aims of data collection and elaboration:
- if the analysis is oriented to social investigation, the sociological use of the data (for instance, to understand certain social phenomena, as drugs diffusion, organised crimes, percentage of serious crimes, pedopornography) affects the style and content of the research and request a richer collection and much more details about the circumstances of the criminal facts (in some cases this is valid even in the civil area) - while the evaluation of judicial systems, as mentioned above, is more focused on the workflow, on the eventual bottlenecks of the procedures, so that the timing of every operation or subphase of the trial become crucial -.
Finally, peculiar differences in the data collection between criminal and civil justice information come from the following elements:
- necessity to protect investigations, so that, in criminal matter, all the conventions and directives about data protection foresee exceptions for the data involved in research about criminal facts4;
- consequent capability of the civil data of being known by a larger number or subject, with the possibility of remote access (adopting secure authentication credentials).
The development, all over Europe, of IT systems oriented in offering to the legal practitioners information about their cases sets new problems, about security of the technological platform, about the common sharing of the data and the differences between the judicial systems, with difficulties in translating, interpreting and comparing the cases.
A lot of the path has been made, but a strong impulse to standardize at least parts of the judicial systems, and consequently their data management applications, should be a strong objective in the next future for the countries belonging to the Council of Europe.
IT court manager, Italian Ministry of Justice, Milan
1 Most of the judicial systems all over Europe are helped, more or less, by IT systems, particularly for the data management. This brief article is focused on computerized data collections.
2 According to the UE Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions (Brussels, 6/6/2001, COM(2001)298), that can be seen as a development from article 7 of the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data (Strasbourg, 28/1/1981). The main principles of this Convention have been also developed and inspired the subsequent EU Directives about personal data processing, particularly Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.
3 See CEPEJ(2005)1 on www.coe.int/CEPEJ.
4 Nevertheless, protection data problems are present also in the civil field, because of the delicacy or peculiar categories of data, as for the capability of revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, health or sex life.