There’s a computer judge that can predict the verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights

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By Katie King on

Robotic justice?


There’s a brand new computer judge which can, apparently, predict the outcome of human rights cases by scanning and analysing previous court judgments.

The latest in a series of recent tech developments in the legal profession, computer science buffs over at UCL and the University of Sheffield reckon their new method means cases can be predicted with 79% accuracy.

Artificially intelligent software — basically a computer which is capable of learning — had to scan judgments from 584 human rights cases in order to develop the algorithm. These cases related in particular to articles 3, 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which savvy law students will know contain the prohibition of torture, the right to a fair trial and the right to privacy.

Perhaps more unsettling for wannabe judges is the claim the computer algorithm doesn’t just weigh up legal evidence, but can take into account moral considerations too. According to the team behind the study, the outcome of human rights cases is often swayed by moral considerations.

However, the computer scientists involved don’t think artificial intelligence (AI) will be putting Lord Neuberger and friends out of a job. Dr Nikolaos Aletras, of UCL, told The Telegraph:

We don’t see AI replacing judges or lawyers, but we think they’d find it useful for rapidly identifying patterns in cases that lead to certain outcomes.

While Aletras’ words may sooth aspiring lawyers’ fears about robots encroaching on their future career plans, it’s undeniable technology is playing an ever increasing role in the profession.

A number of law firms — such as magic circle rivals Slaughter and May and Clifford Chance — have embraced robot-style tech.

There are also plans to revolutionise the justice system and introduce a cyberspace court to adjudicate on low-level civil claims. Trumpeted by Lord Justice Briggs — who will be speaking at a Legal Cheek Careers event this week about AI and the legal profession — the proposed online court may be of particular concern to law students because it will require only minimal intervention from lawyers.