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'Neutrality', 'choice', and 'ownership' in the construction, use, and adaptation of judicial decision support systems

Tata, Cyrus (1998) 'Neutrality', 'choice', and 'ownership' in the construction, use, and adaptation of judicial decision support systems. International Journal of Law and Information Technology, 6 (2). pp. 143-166. ISSN 0967-0769

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Abstract

This article examines the character and future of Judicial Decision Support Systems (JDSS's) in relation to the activity of judicial sentencing. There are many varieties of JDSS which could be applied to sentencing. However, in terms of attracting judicial and political commitment 'Sentencing Information Systems' seem to be emerging as the predominant JDSS model. This model stresses values of data neutrality; judicial choice; and, judicial ownership of sentencing practice and sentencing reform. The article proceeds to examine the 'flip side' of each of these values. It discusses the reasons for the apparent neutrality of SIS data arguing that this 'neutrality' is necessarily a construction based in sentencing research. Examining the value of judicial choice in whether or not the system should be consulted, the article presents results of evaluation of the extent and nature of use of the Scottish Sentencing Information System currently being operated by High Court judges. There is some reason to believe that previous Canadian experience may not necessarily be replicated elsewhere, although it is still early in the history of the Scottish project. Finally, the article considers the ability to retain judicial ownership of the system and public access arguing