REPHRAIN Masterclass: Using legal databases to study tech-enabled harms

On 9 March, the team behind our CMA 1990 project conducted an online masterclass about their experience using legal databases to study tech-enabled harms.

An abstract of this event can be found below – a copy of the presentation can be found here.

Crimes facilitated by technology are constantly evolving.  To reduce them, so too must our understanding of them and their prevalence.  For urban crime, police recorded crime data can provide a rich picture of offending, including how offences are committed.  However, for emerging offences, the recording categories the police are required to use are slow to change and capture only limited information.  For some types of offences, such as crimes facilitated by technology, little to know information may be systematically collected, or the offence may be recorded in such a way that the use of technology is overlooked or obscured.

Legal databases, which detail cases that have been prosecuted in court provide an alternative source of data.  They typically contain more detail than do police records and, unlike police recorded crime data, are accessible through online databases.  Unlike police data they also provide insight as to how (and what) evidence is presented, whether prosecuted cases result in convictions, and if judicial outcomes are influenced by evidence concerning the use of technology.

In this Masterclass, using examples from our own work and that of others, we will discuss examples of Tech abuse, how legal databases have been used in the past to understand emerging trends in crime facilitated by technology, how to conduct a legal database analysis, and what information can be obtained.  Like any source of data, there are, of course, biases associated with court reports (e.g. not all cases are recorded) and we will discuss some of these in this session.  Finally, we will consider the potential for automating the searching and analysis of court case files and some of the challenges associated with this.

Please direct any queries regarding this event to – thank you to all for their contributions!