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Researchers in China are developing an AI system to help assess common crimes and bring charges automatically.

The AI system is being built and tested by researchers at the Shanghai Pudong People’s Procuratorate. The prosecution is the largest and busiest district prosecution in the country, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

It is said to be the world’s first AI system that can automatically charge people for a suspected crime. According to the researchers, this “AI prosecutor” will generate a suitable charge based on a verbal description of a crime with an accuracy of more than 97 percent. This is based on accurate natural language processing.

Machine assistance for prosecutors

The technology is primarily intended to reduce the daily workload of prosecutors so they have more time for more demanding tasks, says Professor Shi Yong, director of the Big Data and Knowledge Management Laboratory at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead researcher on the project.

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The system could “replace prosecutors to some extent” in the decision-making process, Shi and colleagues write in an article published after peer-review for the Chinese journal Management Review.

Further development of “System 206

The AI prosecutor is an extension of “System 206,” which has been tested and more widely used in China since May 2018. This is designed to help “find facts, authenticate evidence, protect the right of appeal and impartially judge the trial,” Chinadaily reported in 2019, when the system was first used at a trial in Shanghai.

System 206, for instance, can automatically record conversations and transfer them into written characters. It supports investigations in more than 100 typical scenarios with a guide for evidence collection and interrogations. It can also automatically generate interrogation protocols. System 206 is also designed to assess the significance of individual pieces of evidence, describe the prerequisites for an arrest, and determine the dangerousness of a suspect.

However, System 206 has so far been unable to file charges and suggest appropriate penalties. This is now to change for the following eight particularly common offenses:

  • Credit card fraud
  • operating a game of chance
  • dangerous driving
  • willful bodily injury
  • obstruction of official acts
  • theft
  • fraud
  • political protest (“stirring up strife and provoking trouble”)

With further refinements, Shi and his colleagues say the system will be able to bring charges for less common crimes in the future. The AI prosecutor is still in the test phase and has not yet been rolled out to the courts.

Recommendation

Exactly how the various AI systems work technically is not known. The software is supposed to run on a conventional desktop computer, like those used in courts.

Trained with data from more than 17000 court cases between 2015 and 2020, according to the SCMP, each AI prosecution is said to be based on “1000 features” drawn from human-generated case descriptions, most of which are “too small or too abstract” for humans to make sense of, the SCMP reports. System 206 is then supposed to evaluate the evidence.

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Online journalist Matthias is the co-founder and publisher of THE DECODER. He believes that artificial intelligence will fundamentally change the relationship between humans and computers.
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