Digit 2.0 The Digital Criminal Trial of the Court of Cremona (Digit 2.0)

Published on: 09/06/2009

Digit is the digital dossier for criminal cases, for internal (Judges, Public Prosecutors, Chancellors ) and external (Lawyers) users, as the first solution of Enterprise Content Management inside the Justice Department of Italy. Starting September  2003, from May 2007 the project was been improved  to Digit 2.0 - with web conferencing tool, and sharing procedures to reach the goal to realize a full integrated trial via web for criminal cases, in which judges, public prosecutors,  lawyers, detainees   and parties can  discuss among them and share documents – multimedia objects -  via web, without the "costs" of a physically presence.

It’s an efficient solution that destroy the entries costs for the Freedom of Services inside the Union Market. Today, at the Court of Cremona, each lawyer, expert, interpreter from his European  Home Country can offer his professional services for a “case” pending in Cremona, without “transaction cost” (physically transfers costs,  difficulties of translation, long times and costs for the deliveries of paper materials et so on).

Digit 2.0 reduces  the times, the costs of the Italian Justice , and  increases the quality of Judicial Cooperation

The video-based trial system we developed using Adobe technology eliminates physical distance, as well as reduces costs and delays associated with transferring detainees, lawyers, witnesses, judges, and the court chancellor.

Web conferencing and collaborative features of the system bring together remote parties securely. Hardware requirements are minimal, needing only a computer with broadband Internet access and equipped with a webcam and a microphone.

The ability to hold a trial with virtual participation of all the parties greatly improves citizen perception of the justice system in Italy.

Digit 2.0 allowed in some validated International Cooperation cases (from Germany, Danish and also Morocco Authorities ,  to share the acts and the activity of Italian delegated  Judges (questioning  of witnesses) in real time, and delivery the official dossier (using Qualified Electronic Signature -Q.E.S.- and the Certified Email) the same day to the Asking Authority

Digit has also the goal to conserve all the documents, at the end of their natural use, only in a digital format. Fort this objective we use the PDF/A format (ISO 19005 – the specific format for a “long term archiving). 

We think to have built an efficient system of Digital Document Management inside the Italian Justice, where all our stakeholders can share information e documents, criminal digital dossier of thousands – or “million” of page in very short time, easily, without relevant costs.

We have built our project to reach the “Pareto efficiency” for all our users.

We have built something – incredible! – with a positive return with of the investments (R.O.I. positive)

First electronic court papers, then web conferencing-based court trials give the Italian justice system a new image: fast, efficient, and on time.

Now we want challenge your examination, because we are convicted that our approach, our “persecuting” the “Pareto efficiency”, our method of collaboration between public and private, our innovative policies of reintroducing the prisoners in the social “network” are very interesting and positive not only for Italian Judicial system, but also in other countries.

We are working hard, with enthusiasm, with an European horizon.

Now you tell us if we are the best! (or the second one, the third.. stop!)Image removed.

Policy Context

The Court of Cremona is an efficient unit of the Italian legal system. 14 judges and 50 employees work at the court which assembles about 7 times a week, tackling 12 to 13 criminal trials each time.

The Target of the Digit project are all internal and external users, that fell the necessity of an efficient service of generation, management and delivery of digital dossier in criminal cases.

The project has analyzed the positions of entire chain of user and stakeholders , from assistants to Chancellor, Judge, Public Prosecutor, Lawyer, with a Pareto – efficiency benchmark (between the paper based organization to digital organization). Each people of this chain had to feel a benefit effect for himself to start to work with the new digital dossier (the Pareto- efficiency)

For example, the assistant of the Chancellor feel an efficient benefit to work with scanner and ergonomic desktop station instead to make paper copy ad to be in contact with toner - pollution. He also increase his professional background, and his prospective in a better career

A trial transcript can be shared among participants, downloaded, digitally signed just as if participants were physically next to each other. In addition, the transcript goes through a workflow and is automatically added to the remaining court papers.

Tests prove that Chancellors, Judges and the other users save 50% time to generate new documents using the Digit Dossier.

Lawyers, in particular, can reach the same level of knowledge of the Public Prosecutor about the specific case using the digital dossier in a very short time.

For Italian law system, that mean to reach an effective parity between the parties inside the criminal trial.

Each user (internal-external) have services on-line (it’s possible to download digital dossier from external provider, to connect the people from the jail of Lawyer office to the Court – room).

There are no limits to sizing the project to be use for indeterminate users.

Now, our local target, it’s about for one hundred internal users, ad about four hundred external users (barristers/lawyers), but usually we offer services to lawyers from other areas in Italy, o for other Courts. 

Digit respects a "middlle - out approach" . We started with clear "business challenges" -  to realize electronic documents case - and focus on creating business value - " to retail" the criminal digital dossier copies to lawyers - and to use the electronic documents inside the "live" criminal trial. The second step was to protect our electronic confidential data with the Adobe Live Cylce DRM solution. With Digit 2.0 we are  preserving rich internet applications, web services, wokflow solutions trials on - line in web conference

We can say that we are adopting also a "snow ball" approach. "How do you build a big snowball? You start with a small snowball".

Description of target users and groups

Court clerks and others working on cases can quickly bring up and review case documents on their PCs. At the same time, judges, public ministers, and lawyers wanting copies of digital files have the opportunity to keep abreast of proceedings at anytime and from anyplace using their PCs. They can perform searches on document sets, extract parts of documents to insert into case analyses, and share information readily across project teams. The result is a better compliance with the Article 111 of Italian Constitution Law (to assure the effective "equity" of the parts - Pubblic Prosecutor - Lawyers in front of the judge)

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Digit 2.0 adopts a Service Oriented Architecture, in which each service (first electronic court papers, second Digital Rights Management, then web conferencing – trial on-line, ore the sharing and delivery of all the materials among the parties) preserve its autonomy, but with the practical effect to increase the proceeding of digitalization e total effectiveness

During the creation of the digital document sets, bookmarks are inserted into the Adobe PDF files to enable readers to navigate more easily within the digital documents.

Finalized materials are submitted for Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and then placed in an appropriate directory on the court’s internal file repository. The document set can be read reliably by authorized court staff using free Adobe Reader¨ software, versions 6 or later.

A copy of the original document (an exact copy in every detail, including stamps and signatures) is available at any time by simply clicking on the print option.

Digital folders are updated step by step while trials go ahead.

The software is re-usable for the Civil Trial and for the Clerk Office, or in every public or private organization that need to manage unstructured data, in a full context of Enterprise Content Management (E.C.M. philosophy)

If necessary, each PDF dossier can be secured, both during the preliminary investigations, both during the delivery to the lawyer. An important part of the DIGIT system is the use of Adobe LiveCycle Rights Management solution to generate documents with built-in security to provide the court with greater control over the distribution of documents.

The great numbers of PDF criminal dossier can be managed  by Adobe LiveCycle    (see technology solution) implemented to automate the transfer and processing of documents across all parties working on a case.

 At the end of a preliminary hearing, the final documentation set is saved to the digital system – or inside the content system -  and made available for subsequent uses, including appeals, archiving, and sentencing.

Since February 2005 the Court of Cremona has also started publishing sentences in PDF format (the ones related to digital folders) embedded with the one digitally signed (Qualified Electronic Signature – Q.E.S.) by the Judge and the Clerk. (see the PPT in PDF at the link https://share.acrobat.com/adc/document.do?docid=e5848fd5-65ab-48e8-b1ac-94514cec914b )

The web conferencing-based trial system is currently used in one courtroom at the Court of Cremona, which has been equipped with workstations connected to the Internet through optical cables. Each participant in a trial can be physically present in the room. Or, he could be in his office, at home, or even in prison, and communicate with the others through one of the workstations.

The web conference-based trial takes place as follows: a virtual room is created and e-mails are sent to invite participants. Participants access a specified URL to enter the virtual room. A judge or the court chancellor will then start the trial by enabling the transmission of video and sound. In the virtual room, the chancellor maps a component of the desktop to each trial participant so that participants can interact with each other according to policies assigned to their roles. It is important to note that our solution based on Adobe software and technology was implemented without any customization.

In the virtual room it’s possible to share documents, to sign them with Q.E.S., to fallow the activity of the Judge or the Clark.

Inside the same section, it’s possible open different virtual rooms, in which the parties can discuss, with the permission of the President, in a private chat (f.e. Lawyer and his client, two Public prosecutors, Public Prosecutor and Lawyer et so on)

It’s possible to record the entire Trial on-line, and assemble it inside the digital dossier.

Technology solution

Digit 2.0 is the new project that, through the implementation of groundbreaking technological solutions, allows the Court of Cremona to innovate the Court system and optimize the work of all the parties involved in the trials, ensuring better service to the citizens and full compliance with the current and future rules.

The Court of Cremona represents a case of excellence in Italy and since 2004 has been investing in the dematerialization of trial paperwork in view of improving efficiency and cut the costs for record and document management. Thanks to Digit 2.0 and to the Adobe technologies, the Court makes an important progress and implements a set of modes and instruments aimed at improving co-operation at the different stages of the trial, sharing documents, promoting communication between the Court and the parties involved in the trial, and ensuring legal compliance.

With Digit 2.0 the Court of Cremona expands the use of Web Conference tools to the discussion phase of the trial. Using the Adobe solutions allows to carry out remote protected hearings of witnesses, examinations and depositions, involving investigated parties, experts, and consultants without necessarily requiring their physical appearance in the courtroom. The Web Conference solution is also used to organize e-learning sessions. At the experimental stage, 112 operational sessions have already been carried out with satisfactory results in terms of connection reliability and recording quality. In order to manage online hearings and auditions, the standard equipment of the Court (microphones, audio systems, etc.) has been used in view of reuse and further cost optimization.

The project also provides for the secure, tracked, and controlled sharing of all the trial documents, including multimedia elements, such as videos, audio inputs, and applications. The use of the Adobe technologies allows the authorized users (lawyers, investigated parties, witnesses, and other offices) to access the information also remotely, using a simple Web browser, with no need for special IT equipment. The sharing process is fully and constantly monitored and allows to track all the operations performed on the documents – from access to reading and down to printing, editing, retrieving, and digital signing.  

The use of the Certified E-Mail (CEM) and of the digital signature allows the Court of Cremona to notify the records to the concerned parties in the digital format and in an utterly safe and reliable manner, improving external communications with significant time and cost saving.

Finally, Digit 2.0 ensures maximum compliance with the rules in force and anticipates the achievement of the targets set by the e-Government 2012 Plan, as well as the provisions contained in the Bill of Law for the implementation of the Digital Administration Code on Justice.

The project is based on the Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro solutions for Web Conference and remote collaboration, Adobe LiveCycle Content Services ES for the implementation of the documentary repository, Adobe LiveCycle Rights Management ES for the safe distribution of documents, Adobe Acrobat 9 for the creation of electronic ISO PDF/A files, and Acrobat.com for application sharing and collaboration via the Web.

The Digit project, created at the Court of Cremona in 2004, was recognized as a project of national interest. Today all the Court’s criminal judgements issued after 2004 are available in the PDF/A digital format. Thanks to the input of the Digit office, located at the Jail of Cremona, the dematerialization of all the judgements issued by the Court of Cremona from 2000 to 2004 is now under way.

Technology choice: Standards-based technology

Main results, benefits and impacts

The Digit project, created at the Court of Cremona in 2004, was recognized as a project of national interest and has received a number of awards (specialized reviews, reportage on national TV channel – Rai1 – Rai2 – Rai3 channels . To date, 840 criminal trials have been entirely digitalized, for a total of about 400thousand pages, and all the criminal judgements of the Court after 2004 – about 900 a year – are now available in the PDF/A format. Thanks to the hard work of the Digit centre at the Court’s Jail, the dematerialization of all the judgements issued by the Court of Cremona from 2000 to 2004 is now under way.

The dematerialization concerned the files of the Cremona facilities, as well as of important criminal trials under way at the Courts of Milan and Lodi, in addition to a number of trials of the Anti-mafia District Headquarters of Brescia. The Court’s Jail, for example, took care of the dematerialization of over 300thousand pages concerning the files of the trial for the Slaughter at Piazza Fontana, in Milan, and more recently of the records of the Telecom trial. This final operation was completed very quickly, in just more than one month, in full compliance with the needs of the requesting Office.

The dematerialization of the trial files generated significant savings in terms of costs, time, paper, and power, with positive impacts on record storage and transportation costs. A significant example is provided by the trial for the Slaughter at Piazza della Loggia, in Brescia, whose file includes more than 873thousand pages, corresponding to about 800 paper folders. The defending counsels and the parties have received 23 digital copies – no paper was handed out – for a total of more than 20 million pages: while the average time to produce a digital copy of the records is 2 hours, 436 man/days would have been required to produce one paper copy, assuming that the original documents could be copied at a speed of 2,000 pages per day.

The costs, except for storage and transportation, are therefore enormously reduced. The production of the first digital copy (including dematerialization) is, in fact, cheaper than a paper copy (45,000 EUR vs. 46,280 EUR), and all the additional digital copies can be produced virtually at zero cost, in that only the cost for the media is due. If the 23 copies delivered to the defending counsels and to the parties had been printed on paper, the public administration would have incurred an additional cost of over one million EUR!

The dematerialization of the trial files does not only generate economic savings, but also positively influences the operational efficiency of all the concerned parties. The storage of the records in the PDF/A format for 50 years and the opportunity to carry out ‘full text’ searches via the OCR recognition of the digital text, in fact, reduces the search time and allows a more effective retrieval of information, optimizing the work of all the parties that need to access records, judgements, and documents for professional reasons in order to carry out in-depth searches, which would be impossible on paper, due to the significant number of pages that would need to be reviewed.

The Digit model also has a positive impact on the work of the Court employees, allowing to valorize human resources and requalify the staff that used to carry out the copying and filing of paperwork. Finally, the opportunity should be noted to use the inmates for socially useful tasks, involving them in the digitalization process at the Digit centre of the Cremona Jail.

Return on investment

Return on investment: €300-499,000

Track record of sharing

We projected Digit to use non customized software, that everybody can easily buy in the competition market.

We are engaged only with the PDF format, that is a public standard (ISO).

So in every time we are free to choose the best and innovative solution of the international software market that produce, manage e develop PDF document, if the analysis cost-benefit is positive and the upgrade necessary.

The proof of the great exportability of our solution it’s the new Digit Station realized inside the Prison of Cremona, where are working the detainees.

In a very short time they had digitalized 500.000 pages of important – and historical – cases about the terrorism in Italy – and save this important document that were going bad on the original paper format.

It’s a very hi – tech station, that can digitalized – following the specifics of Digit – about 12 thousands of pages/die. See the movie in pdf (flv) at the link https://share.acrobat.com/adc/document.do?docid=576b04f2-4165-4d60-ab3b-f0d296f8b5d5

It’s begun also the start – up of Digit in many Courts in Italy, with the coordination of the Ministry of Justice and the support of Ministry of Innovation (CNIPA – the Authority for the Innovation in the Public Administration)

Lessons learnt

With no budget for the "pilot", we involved our private/institutional partners with an idea that maximized the value of their commercial goods (software, connectivity), or their mission, without asking them supplementary costs for customizations. We respected - from the beginning- , the work and the value of all our employees, in a perfect Pareto efficiency scheme, with the goal to deleted "transaction costs" and "frictions".

Good ideas, "smart" I.Tech partners, and enthusiasm to work together and to realize something considered impossible (before us) inside the (Italian) Justice .

What do you recommend other administrative areas with a comparable starting situation?

"Middle - out approach" - "snow ball approach", strong cost benefit analysis, Pareto efficiency goal, no customized solutions as long it's possible, and enthusiasm to work together: it's the DIGIT THOUGHT

Scope: Cross-border, International, Local (city or municipality), National