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Speaking at the Legatum Institute on June 23, in his first speech as Justice Secretary, Michael Gove outlined how he intends to deliver 'faster and fairer justice'. Implicit in his choice of words is the notion that faster does not, per se, mean fairer. In fact, it very often means the opposite.
So what constitutes fair justice? Essentially, it involves equal access to legal services for rich and poor, an independent judiciary, due process, freedom from corruption and the prompt delivery of justice/dispute resolution. In his speech, Gove argues that the fairness of England's legal system is being compromised by 'antiquated working practices' that result in unacceptable delays and inefficiencies.
A particular problem, he suggests, is continued reliance on paper. “I have heard too many accounts of cases derailed by the late arrival of prisoners, broken video links or missing paperwork. I have seen both prosecution and defence barristers in a case that touched on an individual’s most precious rights acknowledge that each had only received the massive bundles in front of them hours before and – through no fault of their own – were very far from being able to make the best case possible.”
He continues: “And thinking of those huge bundles, those snowdrifts of paper held in place by delicate pink ribbons, indeed thinking of the mounds of paper forming palisades around the hard-pressed staff who try to bring some sense and order to the administration of justice, it is impossible not to wonder what century our courts are in.”
The Government's desire to modernise the legal system by tackling the paper mountain is not new. In 2013, the then Justice Minister Damian Green outlined a £160 million plan to make UK courtrooms fully digital – and some completely wireless – by 2016. At the time, he claimed that replacing paper-based processes with shared access to digital documents would save 160 million sheets of paper a year – equivalent to the height of 15 Mount Snowdons; speed up court business; and prevent adjournments due to missing information.
Public and private sector organisations are undergoing the same process. Whether with entry-level solutions like the Neopost IMW-20 document management system or enterprise-class solutions provided by Data Capture Solutions (DCS), Neopost customers of all sizes are digitising documents and workflows and enjoying significant benefits as a result.
The justifications they usually give are to cut costs, to save time or to free up space occupied by paper filing. The notion of fairness doesn't often get mentioned, but perhaps it should. In a time of greater customer choice and growing interest in employee well-being, 'faster and fairer business' is surely a worthy aim.
Fast does not always mean fair – especially when it comes to justice. But in the case of digitisation, it usually does. For example:
Finally, because a commitment to 'faster and fairer' business puts the customer first, it could deter organisations from adopting some of the less popular manifestations of digitisation, such as charges for receiving a paper bill or statement.
Fairness is a defining principle of justice, and it is becoming more important in business – just one example being new Ofcom rules that let broadband customers walk away from a contract if speeds fall below acceptable levels. Digitisation won't just save space, money and time, it can also help your organisation become 'fairer' and therefore more attractive to customers, suppliers and employees.
To find out how to make the move to digital easy download Neopost’s latest white paper “Digitisation for SME’s” www.neopost.co.uk/news-events/white-papers/digitalisation
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