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Blockchain Court Reform Pilot Launched by UK Gov

Ross Kelly


Remote Juries

Blockchain technology could play a critical role in court reform, helping to store and secure digital evidence. 

The UK Government has unveiled plans to launch a pilot project that will see the storing of digital evidence via blockchain. The initiative was announced in a Gov.UK blog post by Balaji Anbil, Head of Digital Architecture and Cybersecurity at Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

Anbil said the aim of the initiative will be to simplify court processes through the introduction of emerging technologies.

The blog stated that: “As part of our court reform plans to simplify our processes, I recently hosted a meeting on the use of Digital Ledger Technologies in securing digital evidence. This was the first in a series of digital thought leadership and innovation meetings that we will hold at HMCTS.”

Blockchain and Court Reform

Digital Ledger Technology, according to Anbil, forms a substantial part of the government body’s long-term court reform plans. Both the HMCTS and the UK Cabinet Office Open Innovation team have held a series of joint meetings and are exploring the possibility of capitalising on this technology, with the aim of establishing how blockchains and digital ledgers can streamline the reforms.

Digital Ledger Technologies, such as blockchain, are most commonly known for their use in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. However, as an architectural style, distributed ledgers support a high degree of integrity, de-centralisation and have the potential to enable new innovative data solutions.

According to the blog post, the introduction of blockchain “brings numerous benefits including cost-effective and timely delivery and future-proof solutions.”

Key Challenges

Dr Sadek Ferdous, Technology Policy Fellow and Research Associate at London’s Imperial College, provided HMCTS with technical expertise at the joint meeting.

Anbil said: “We are very excited to work with the Open Innovation team at the Cabinet Office and to host thought leadership events on emerging technologies with our colleagues within the government digital communities.

“We are particularly grateful to Dr Ferdous for dedicating the time to share his research and insight into the applicability of Digital Ledger Technology, to evidence sharing challenges in the public sector.”

Ferdous explained how blockchains can be utilised to help improve digital evidence management by establishing an unassailable audit trail that tracks custody and prevents potential tampering. This audit trail, he noted, is an essential component in any digital evidence system, providing a “chronological record of system activities which capture how digital evidence has been created, accessed or modified by which entity.”

According to the HMCTS, the protection of digital evidence and the integrity of evidence chains are critical. Using blockchain, courts could better develop the ability to provide a critical protection framework for digital evidence by providing a guarantee of evidence chain integrity.

Drawing Inspiration

Anbil suggested that the UK had drawn inspiration from other government projects, both in the UK and Europe. Estonia, an early adopter has already developed a number of citizen identity management solutions through blockchain.

In the UK, researchers at the University of Surrey are collaborating with the National Archives on digital ledger technology solutions to secure digital archives. Anbil noted that HMCTS is “following this work with interest” and plans to trial digital ledger technology solutions for inter-agency evidence sharing toward the end of 2018.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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