Data and analytics a key focus for Ministry of Justice

by Sol Dolor24 Oct 2018

Data and analytics are a key focus of the Ministry of Justice as it continues to improve the way it assesses the effectiveness and fairness of New Zealand’s courts system, Secretary for Justice Andrew Bridgman said.

The ministry’s chief executive said in the organisation’s yearly report for the year through 30 June that building capability in data and analytics has been a big priority for the ministry over the last four years.

“Data allows us to measure how well the system is delivering for the people who use it. It also provides us with evidence to base decisions on,” he said.

The data has provided valuable insights. For example, data has revealed that even though there was a 4% decrease in the volume of new criminal cases in the District Court, the workload has actually increased due to the complexity of matters and an increase in the number of events that happen before a case is completed.

“We are dealing with approximately 50,000 more District Court events in criminal cases than five years ago,” he said.

He noted that increased productivity has been maintained through initiatives that include targeted resource allocation, use of local justice sector networks, and providing data to managers.

Data has also shown that only 10% of scheduled judge-alone trials in the District Court’s criminal jurisdiction actually go ahead on the day, mainly because of adjournments. Nearly one in three scheduled trials are adjourned on the day they were scheduled to happen.

In addition to providing information that help improve the justice sector, data also shows where the ministry is having strong performance.

Bridgman said that since 2013, District Court criminal cases that are more than three years old have decreased by 83%. Since the 2012-13 year, the average age of less serious active criminal cases has dropped by nearly 50% for category 1 cases and by nearly 7% for category 2 cases.

The ministry has also resolved nearly 36,000 serious harm cases, 31,900 of which were resolved within 12 months. The High Court’s disposals have also increased by 15%, Bridgman said.

For the past year, Bridgman said that the ministry has also performed well in modernising courts and tribunals; improving victims’ experience of the justice system; the opening of the 15th Rangatahi court; helping to establish the new Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti portfolio; and supporting the development of the Government’s Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata: Safe and Effective Justice work program.

The ministry has also worked on major policy changes, like the implementation of the second phase of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime. It also worked on the new law that allows people to apply to expunge historic homosexual convictions.

Bridgman said that another key focus for the ministry is its people in order to deliver services to the public.

“We want the Ministry of Justice to be a place where our people can be healthy and safe, trusted, supported, and involved. We want all of our people to feel they can be themselves,” he said.

The ministry has improved its employee engagement from 50% in 2016 to 59% in 2018. The ministry’s people feel more informed about the organisation and its activities, and they are remaining in their roles for longer, he said.

“Our biggest improvements were our people’s recognition of the clarity of our vision and strategy (up from 50% in 2016 to 68% in 2018), a belief that we’re making the changes we need to be successful in the future (up from 40% in 2016 to 56% in 2018), and stronger support for the view that we’re delivering on our promises to our customers (up from 39% in 2016 to 52% in 2018),” he said.

This is the secretary’s last annual report.

“I am proud of the Ministry, our work and our people. Managing and delivering such a diversity of services for New Zealanders has been achievable because of the great people at the Ministry of Justice – my sincerest thank you to you all,” he said.