A slow roll-out of a criminal database in Victorian government agencies makes it difficult to measure the effectiveness of reducing the number of court orders and bail condition breaches by these agencies, an Auditor-General's report has found.
The reduction of reoffending rates is a goal for the Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC) and the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) in Victoria. Yet the audit report said that it was difficult to determine whether the agencies' programs to achieve reduction of those rates were having the right effect, because the Victoria Police and Corrections Victoria's Courtlink database, which contains information about defendants, didn't have enough verified information on the defendant, and wasn't linked with other criminal data contained in the rest of the justice system. This made it impossible to track a criminal through the justice system according to the report.
"The recording of defendants' information in the court database, Courtlink, does not include a number of risk factors for reoffending. Courtlink does not record the age of first offence, which is an important risk factor for predicting reoffending," the Auditor-General noted. "[D]ata in the CISP sample [also] had to be manually matched with the records in Courtlink or the databases of Corrections Victoria. This matching exercise was resource-intensive and time consuming."
The Auditor-General said that since the agencies were given significant funding for the programs, it is important that data be collected on the success of said programs.
"Government also requires a firmer evidential basis in considering funding decisions. The department and the court therefore need to better record the interventions applied and defendants' contact with various parts of the criminal justice system," the report stated.
While the Auditor-General was critical of the lack of information held by the agencies, the report stated that the agencies are aware of the limitations of the database and are working to fix it.
"The department has been implementing the Integrated Courts Management System to establish a single integrated technology platform and a set of applications for all Victorian courts and tribunals."
The new integrated management system will record all data from all courts, with a unique identifier for all defendants to allow employees within the justice system to track a defendant's history and progression through the courts; however, due to delays the database isn't expected to be in place until February 2012, with the identifiers to be rolled out long after. The Victorian government has accepted the recommendation that the identifiers be made a priority as part of the roll-out.