Judges encouraged to embrace AI — carefully

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By Rhys Duncan on

What could possibly go wrong?


Judges have received new guidance on the use of AI tools in courts. The report, which was produced for all judicial office holders, noted the potential uses of AI, while focusing on the risks that new tech presents.

For summarising or administrative tasks, the guidance states that judges may find AI tools useful. Sir Geoffrey Vos, Master of the Rolls and the country’s second most senior judge, added that AI provides “great opportunities for the justice system”, and the potential to help develop “a better, quicker and more cost-effective digital justice system”.

“But”, he noted, “because it’s so new we need to make sure that judges at all levels understand [it properly]”. “Technology will only move forwards and the judiciary has to understand what is going on. Judges, like everybody else, need to be acutely aware that AI can give inaccurate responses as well as accurate ones.”

In conducting research, the guidance is clear that AI bots are “not recommended”. The information these tools provide, the guidance continues, “may be inaccurate, incomplete, misleading or out of date.” Concern was also shown for AI’s tendency to rely heavily on US caselaw. “Even if it purports to represent English law” the document says, “it may not do so.”

Elsewhere in the guidance there was concern over potential privacy risks, with judges instructed that any detail they give to a public AI tool “should be seen as being published to all the world”.

The use of deepfake technology to forge evidence was also referenced. This was highlighted in another recent report by the SRA, stating that this manufacturing of evidence using AI had already been in contention in UK cases.

Last week, a tax tribunal found as fact that nine cases presented by a litigant in person had unknowingly been fabricated by “an AI system such as ChatGPT”. Whilst ultimately being sniffed out, and having no impact on the case at hand, “providing authorities which are not genuine and asking a court or tribunal to rely on them is a serious and important issue”, the tribunal said.

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