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MoJ pledges £2m for lawtech

5 June 2019

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Lord Chancellor David Gauke has promised £2m of government investment into lawtech, saying he believes artificial intelligence has “huge potential” in the sector.

Speaking at the Artificial Intelligence in Legal Services Summit in London yesterday (4 June 2019), Gauke also acknowledged the challenges that needed to be overcome, ensuring that new warned that new technology should be deployed to “appropriate ethical standards”.

“Human lawyers have emotional intelligence and are regulated, with bias that is accounted for,” he said. “AI, on the other hand, operates on facts and numbers alone, is currently unregulated and data is only as unbiased as the hands and heads of its creators.”

The Law Society welcomed the government’s backing, with Law Society president and chair of the LawTech Delivery Panel Christina Blacklaws commenting” “As chair of the Lawtech Delivery Panel, I am delighted to welcome the lord chancellor’s announcement of new funding for technology in the legal sector”.

“There has been an exponential growth of technology in the financial services industry in recent years, thanks in no small part to government support. Last year, job creation increased in London by 61% - and nearly a fifth in the country as a whole”, she said.

“This initiative will help the UK to become a world leader in legal technology – with all of the economic benefits that follow.

The Lawtech Delivery Panel is a team of industry experts and leading figures from government and the judiciary, formed by the lord chancellor in the summer of 2018.

It is unclear exactly how the new funding will be used but the panel is expected to play a leading role in the strategy surrounding the funding. 

News of the investment came alongside a warning from the Law Society that that complex algorithms should be used with care in all aspects of the judicial system. 

Publishing the results of a year-long investigation into the use of algorithms in criminal justice The Law Society Technology and Law Policy Commission made a series of recommendations.

  • Oversight: A legal framework for the use of complex algorithms in the justice system. The lawful basis for the use of any algorithmic systems must be clear and explicitly declared
  • Transparency: A national register of algorithmic systems used by public bodies
  • Equality: The public sector equality duty is applied to the use of algorithms in the justice system
  • Human rights: Public bodies must be able to explain what human rights are affected by any complex algorithm they use
  • Human judgement: There must always be human management of complex algorithmic systems
  • Accountability: Public bodies must be able to explain how specific algorithms reach specific decisions
  • Ownership: Public bodies should own software rather than renting it from tech companies and should manage all political design decisions

“We need to build a consensus rooted in the rule of law, which preserves human rights and equality, to deliver a trusted and reliable justice system now and for the future”, Blacklaws said.