Cambridge University law students create crime-identifying ‘LawBot’

It’s basically an Oxbridge-educated RoboCop

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Four Cambridge University law students have created a new online system called ‘LawBot’ which is designed to help the victims of criminal offences get justice.

LawBot — which is the brainchild of Ludwig Bull, Rebecca Agliolo, Jozef Maruscak and Nadial Abdul — took just six weeks to build. It uses Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML) to “provide confidential, non-judgmental, free, easy to understand legal knowledge”.

Currently, LawBot can offer advice in relation to 26 “major criminal offences”, including sex offences, property offences and offences against the person.

Keen to put the robot through its paces, Legal Cheek visited the site pretending to be the victim of an assault.

Having answered a number of LawBot’s questions — such as the type of injury sustained and the state of mind of the perpetrator — the system quickly advised that an offence against the person contrary to section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 had been committed. Armed with this information LawBot advised that Legal Cheek contact the police.

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The clever system — which is based on Joshua Browder’s parking ticket appeal robot ‘DoNotPay’ — can currently only advise on criminal offences committed in England and Wales. However, according to its creators, there are plans to extend LawBot’s capabilities so it will be able to tackle civil law in the near future.

Ludwig, who is the project’s founder and director, told Legal Cheek:

LawBot bridges the gap between legal information (which exists aplenty on the web) and legal knowledge. LawBot secures equal access to justice by explaining in simple questionnaires how the law might apply to a specific situation.

But lawyers can breath a sigh of relief. According to LawBot’s marketing director, Rebecca Agliolo, the system is “not in contention with the legal profession” and has been designed to “complement” the fine work undertaken by criminal solicitors. Continuing, the fourth year Cambridge law student told Legal Cheek:

We don’t believe that programs like LawBot will displace lawyers — in fact, we hope it would compel more people to seek qualified legal advice. By incorporating technological innovation, the law is better equipped to fulfil its (arguably most important) function: the provision of access to justice.

You can put LawBot through its paces here.

23 Comments

Anonymous

I can’t believe this took four people six weeks to build. I would expect it to take one person a weekend.

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Anonymous

Yes, you normally build a LawBot with 26 offences over a day or two

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Bull

Well, as a relative of Mr Bull, the programmer, I have to say you are totally right. You can easily code 800 pages over a weekend.

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Trumpenkrieg

*types* Man… of lower… socioeconomic standing… looked at me… **CRANK WHIRR** …RAPE!!!

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Anonymous

Intended to persuade people to take legal advice …. unlikely, what it will do is empower litigants in person to believe that they know what they are doing and embark upon some ill-fated crusade in the name of justice.

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Not Amused

This is a REALLY bad idea.

The British approach to Criminal Law has been to create an excessive amount of offenses. This is because it was designed initially around the idea that a police office (who didn’t even used to have to have O’levels) would be doing the charging of offenses.

So rather than have a situation were you have an EVENT but then PC Average can’t work out if the EVENT constitutes OFFENCE A or if it doesn’t. We instead created OFFENCE B AND C AND D as well. All 4 are very similar and any EVENT probably triggers a multiple offences.

That’s fine when we want to prosecute people. When we all agree that the EVENT requires action. The person might be charged with multiple offenses, might not be, but either way the Judge can clean up the mess at sentencing.

However, the problem arises when we don’t want to prosecute. The way our system has created multiple similar offenses and also has very broad definitions, has meant that a lot of stuff is technically an offence. Criminal trespass is a good example. We create an initial against trespassing on Railways. All well and good. But then we extend it to the Underground in order to stop nasty terrorists. HOWEVER. Trespass is quite broad. Every commuter on a packed platform who ignores the exit signs on a station and exits via an entrance is a trespasser. They’re also a criminal.

Do we really want an app on everyone’s smart phone that tells them this?

It’s not just trespass either. The public order offences are very wide. Travelling on public transport with an infectious illness is a crime. There are thousands of these silly laws made gradually over hundreds of years by idiot politicians – NO ONE knows them all and no one has looked at this or tried to reduce them – we just keep making more.

While I know this sort of incredibly boring fact, it doesn’t really matter. No one else knows and the journalists aren’t interested. But we are going to have a massive fall out from the Law of Unintended Consequences if anyone creates an App that identifies criminal behaviour – because we all commit crimes every day and we can’t all fit in the prisons.

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Mini-stallone

Cool comment brah, made me want to be like you when I grow up!

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Anonymous

Trespass is not a criminal offence unless it interferes with the lawful enjoyment of land. Your commutes are not criminals but may commit civil trespass. The problem with Lawbot is that the law is a complex area with all sorts of nuances. The s.18 example is laughable.

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Anonymous

I think this is an amazing idea. Well done to the team! Finally good representation for Cambridge students

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Lord Lyle of Constable Knobache v Mr X 1994 Southwark Crown Court and The Queen pp Mr X v The Met

Most amusing NA. I recall PC Knobache who charged my client, Mr X, with “carrying a dangerous load” on his motorcycle. The dangerous load was his 4 yo son, riding pillion. Mr X attended the Crown Court as a litigant in person. Counsel for the prosecution told him , she would refuse to prosecute this and told the court this. His honour complied and awarded Mr X £4.25 in compensation. PC Knobache was unhappy with this and embarked on a budget vendetta on my client. We commenced JR proceedings on the Met.
The Met conceded, stating “Whilst we concede what Mr X is doing is not against the law, we very much think it ought to be”.

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Lord Lyle of Constable Knobache v Mr X 1994 Southwark Crown Court and The Queen pp Mr X v The Met

Delete budget. A smart computer programme put that in 🙂

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Anonymous

Since the offences of assault and, separately, battery are so widely drawn, as are public order offences, it can hardly be difficult to presume the commission of an offence in circumstances where are any aggression or force is used. Once you get that far it’s just a matter of picking the right form of offence to charge. Which is (generally) the CPS’s job.

What else does anyone need to know?

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Trumpenkrieg

This software has a radical bias and, if taken seriously, will lead to wasted police time, wrongful covictions and false allegations. I entered a scenario where a female ‘complainant’ had penetrative vaginal sex with a male, having drunk alcohol but only enough to make her tipsy, and where no coercion or blacking out had ocurred and where “I”, the complainant told the program I had consented all the way through the act. The answer from the program was along the lines of “no offence has been committed, but you should go to the police anyway”.

If they have such an attitude to defendant’s rights, police resources and the rule of law, the muppets who designed this program should be retroactively barred from practicing law in the UK.

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Anonymous

Trumpenkrieg, why would a person who does not believe they have been the subject of a criminal offence go to a Law Bot ?

I do not see where the integrity of your data is for this, comrade.

I have been put off the Law Bot by the screen shot.

Legal Cheek entered details of an assault, so they say.

The Law Bot pulls up a S.18 OAP diagnosis in response, which, if memory serves, is intentional Grievous Bodily Harm. At face value it gets the crime wrong. (It should be S.47 of the OAP, from memory – if it just an assault – I am sure everyone knows this)

The Law Bot pulls up information on sentencing which is not fit for purpose, and the advice is so divorced from the day to day reality of being assaulted that to suggest going to the Police is an eye roller.

I am afraid I am going to sneak a dig at Oxbridge here.

Is there a danger that the Oxbridgers have their self importance exaggerated to the point that they think such a flawed Law Bot is

(a) useful to society
(b) a good reflection of themselves and their ability, rather than a bad reflection of it
(c) worth expanding in other fields of the social, environmental and economic maelstrom

One can imagine a Dragon from the Dragon’s Den saying “I’m out”

This may be harsh based on a single screen shot – but it is only a couple of comments and I now give way to the defenders of it 🙂

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Trumpenkrieg

“Why would a person who does not believe they have been the subject of a criminal offence go to a Law Bot ?”

I think a lot of these rape prosecutions that fall to pieces in front of the jury happen when women who, whilst not believing they have been the subject of a criminal offence but still experiencing emotions of regret and self-loathing, perhaps for having ‘given it away’ too easily, share those emotions with zealous third parties, such as friends of a radical feminist bent who believe that all heterosexual sex is fundamentally an act of rape of the female by the male due to the dynamic of power relations between the two, who then influence these women into reporting the experience and attendant negative emotions they have experienced in relation to it to people in positions of authority, say, a radical feminist campus rape counselor. who then encourages these women to engage in ‘consent revisionism’ and report the incident to the police as rape.

LawBot’s stance on rape smacks of such radical feminist rape counselors and other activists who push impressionable, immature women into reporting their perfectly consensual experiences as rape.

By telling people to go to the police even though by its own algorythm no offence has been committed, LawBot, and in fact the people who wrote the program, are revealing themselves as having a callous indifference to the rights of innocent men. It shows extremely dubious ethics for a purported lawyer to create a website that nudges people into making false allegations of an extremely heinous crime.

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Georgina Orwell

Given the hardware is probably made in China, and the OS that the software is written on is probably American, I would imagine that someone will end up getting sentenced to death by the computer due to a jurisdictional glitch.

“YOU WILL BE DELETED”

You heard it here first!

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Yoo Fon Giwtee

We have no need for compu’er in my coun’ree.

I slentence yoo to deaf and arso tlenty year in raibor camp!

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