China’s courts on track to become first AI-integrated legal system10. March 2021
China’s courts on track to become first AI-integrated legal system
China is introducing changes to monitor judges, streamline court procedures and increase judicial credibility that could lead to the world’s first AI-integrated legal system.
By using Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), the country has begun to change the way the judicial system operates, according to the Supreme People’s Court’s work report. The changes are part of China’s “Smart Court” initiative, a signature policy of SPC President Zhou Qiang to strengthen centralized political power and tighten oversight of judges, legal experts said.
Smart court is a vague term that refers to a range of low- to high-tech measures, including more efficient processing of court records and online publication of court rulings to more technologically advanced efforts such as algorithm analysis and AI-assisted decision-making in courtrooms through partnerships with technology companies.
A report in the South China Morning Post indicates that Chinese courts across the country have published more than 120 million court decisions in an online database and broadcast more than 11 million court hearings online since 2014. In addition to improving transparency, courts in various parts of the country are also testing pilot projects under the smart court initiative, including the electronic admission of evidence.
Between February and December last year, more than 7 million cases were filed online and more than 4 million cases were heard online. During the same period, nearly 900,000 cases were tried virtually, a huge seven-fold increase over the previous year.
From 2016 to 2020, during China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, Chinese courts collected 220 million case details on their Big Data management and service platform and generated 870 special reports using Big Data analytics, the SPC report said.
It also said that during the same period, more than 640 million data were uploaded to the national judicial blockchain platform to store judicial evidence, and nearly 2.5 million of them were certified.
Commenting on the initiative, Jin Haijun, a law professor at Renmin University, said blockchain technology is particularly useful for securing or documenting digital evidence, especially in intellectual property rights cases. “In the past, documenting evidence in cases such as copyright infringement required the use of a notary public, as such evidence can be easily erased if not properly documented.” That worked well, he said, but was very expensive. “Now blockchain can take over the functions of a notary to secure or document evidence,” he added.
Under the 14th Five-Year Plan, Chinese courts will upgrade to fourth-generation smart courts by 2025, including a central database platform for all judicial data and a central control center to oversee all aspects of the smart court initiative across the country.