Constructing a Crime and Justice #opendata wishlist

I’ve been writing a bit recently about the Open Data Institute’s first Immersion Programme on Crime and Justice. Part of my role as series lead is to advocate for datasets to be released by government on behalf of the participants. This post is calling for requests for the datasets that people want to be made openly available.

Open Data Institute logo

Open Data Institute logo

We’ve had a good response to participation so far. The conversations that we’ve had have included some very specific requests, such as the location of all the police stations in the UK, which isn’t yet available.

The location of stations can be very important when crime mapping and especially when?looking at the prevalence of crime . For a variety of reasons some crimes are geo-located at the local police station. If you can’t allow for this then your mapping can make it look as though there is a mini crime wave around police stations.

Will Perrin has written about a proposed Transparency Charter for open justice. He listed the following data that he is interested in seeing published openly:

  • name, address and specific charges in all cases available from the time the case is scheduled (see footnote)
  • the full names, including first names, of judges, prosecution and defence lawyers, witnesses, and other professionals who speak during proceedings (e.g. magistrates? clerks giving legal advice) from when they are known
  • judgements handed down from the end of the working day on which the case is concluded
  • next stage of the case.

And some of us have had an interesting discussion about the principles of open justice versus the risks inherent in naming people accused of crimes online.

Returning to crime mapping, the Home Office have recently announced some proposed changes to the way that location data is provided through the Police UK API.?This has generated a discussion about which administrative geographies are desirable to have returned by the API and csv downloads. There has also been some challenge to the extent that Police Uk should be involved in processing the data.

So, the question that I am interested in is: if you have an interest in the Crime and Justice sector, what are the datasets that you would like to see opened up?

Obviously, I can’t promise that everything that somebody suggests to us will be made available, but we will do our best to champion people’s requests. Please put your requests in the comments below.


  1. Hi Simon. Several points:

    I think we are quite well served in terms of crime incident data and policing statistics. Additional categories of data are always welcome but I would like to see the Home Office focus mainly on standardising the recording of the data at source. It would also be useful to have some codified information on short-term local policing initiatives, so that we can pull those signals out of the incident data.

    It would indeed be helpful to have an open national dataset of police station locations. There are already commercial sources for this information, and it’s also not very difficult to compile such a dataset from open sources. However it would seem more efficient for police services to maintain an authoritative version via

    While I disagree strongly with some aspects of Will Perrin’s proposed “Transparency Charter”, I certainly agree with the broader principle that court lists and case law should be more readily available to the public. The main barrier here is the existing subscription-based services for legal information; opening up this information would require the MOJ to challenge some vested interests and perhaps also sacrifice some revenue streams.

    On a less ambitious scale, I would like to see an end to the exclusive arrangement that MOJ has with BAILII for publication of some significant court judgments. See my ODUG request from last year for more detail:

    Crime has causes; much of the most useful data for analysing and anticipating crime trends isn’t generated by the criminal justice system itself. It’s important to maintain the availability of small area sociodemographic datasets such as the IMD and the Census. Additionally there are some datasets held by other “blue light” services that complement police incident data. For example opening up fire service incident data would tell us more about arson patterns, and anonymised data from A&E admissions could tell us more about patterns of street and domestic violence.

  2. Current crime data is available for 1 mile around a specific point which makes it very difficult for hyperlocal websites such as and We Love Balsall Heath to show all crime in their area.

    I agree with Will Perrin that the Name, address and charges should be available for court cases – both Magistrate and Crown courts. Preferably available for postcode areas as well, although ward level data could be used if the postcode is included in a well formatted address.

  3. Hi Mike

    There has been a discussion about this on the Police UK forum here

    It looks like there is an intention to introduce some different geographic areas to the functionality on Police Uk and the possibility of user generated shapefiles being uploaded to the api.

    Thanks for the comments about court cases. There appears to be a closed/secure version of something called Track My Crime by Avon and Somerset Police at the moment which might be of interest:

  4. Thanks for the comments Owen, and my apologies for taking so long to respond to them.

    Anecdotally I’ve heard that there is quite a bit of “smoothing” of the Police Uk data and that does make me wonder how consistent the reporting is across the country. Also, the potential for figures to change as senior police instruct their officers to encode crimes in particular ways could lead to inconsistencies nationally.

    I have to admit to being undecided about how open I feel we should be with personally identifiable data relating to criminal justice. At the moment it is a bit of a lottery for an individual as to whether their crime/case will make the news. Having everything going through the courts published online would remove that inconsistency.

    If all cases were published in the open then the worst case scenario is that rampaging lynch mobs would stalk the land. At best, a more informed public would have a deeper understanding of the workings of the criminal justice system leading to a greater tolerance of people with criminal convictions and better rehabilitation rates.

    Neither of the above are realistic outcomes.

    At the moment we are reliant almost entirely on the commercial drivers of our media to decide what is reported about the working of the courts, prison and probation services and I don’t think they have served us particularly brilliantly.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

    Thanks for the suggestions of the data sources outside the criminal justice system, and the BAILLI example. They were included in the wishlist.

    Thanks again for your comments, they were really useful.

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