In Abu Dhabi, machines help decide how long convicts must be jailed

The computers also predict whether a defendant will commit a new crime.
Machines powered by artificial intelligence (AI) can do a lot of things; some are jaw-dropping. But in Abu Dhabi, AI goes beyond performing amusing tricks. It is being used to sentence criminals.

The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) on Monday (June 17) said judges have started using AI systems to decide when – and for how long – criminals should be jailed.

“We introduced the AI system in courts last year to assess risks and help judges in sentencing criminals,” Khawla Salem Al Qubaisi, IT director at the ADJD, told Khaleej Times at a judicial department’s workshop.

“To create the AI system, our team uses computers to analyse data from different court cases. We use the historical data through machine-learning algorithms.

“The computers then use that data to predict whether a defendant will commit a new crime or won’t return to court.”

She said the system is designed to give judges the most objective information available to make fair decisions for the criminal cases.

It is also being used to determine the trial period or for how long a hearing in a particular case should take, depending on the nature of the case.

“This is a good system because it will help keep criminals that are dangerous to society in jail for long, while defendants that are not a safety threat will be given lighter sentences,” said Al Qubaisi.

Age and previous criminal convictions are some of the “risk factors” used in the assessments, she added.

Ahmed Ibrahim Al Mazroqui, head of support services section at the ADJD, said 97 per cent of the services at the judicial department have been digitalised, and this has helped reduce workloads, expedited services, and reduced expenses on paper and other printing materials.

“We are determined to make our customers happy, comfortable, and satisfied, through the provision of different services, using new technologies,” he said.

In September last year, the ADJD announced that courts in Abu Dhabi would start allowing trials to take place through video-conferencing, in case it is inconvenient to bring defendants to courts.

AI in Abu Dhabi courts: How it works

AI system is created

Team of experts gathers digital, historical data from different court cases for analysis

Machine-learning algorithms were put together for the AI system

When a case lands in court …

System finds and analyses all relevant data about the defendant

Determines how long the hearing may take

Predicts whether the person is likely to commit a new crime or not

Gives judges the most objective information about the defendant, helping them make fair decisions

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