AI is making its way into the courtroom in England and Wales

AI is now available for judges in England and Wales to aid in crafting legal rulings, with the caveat that its use is restricted to assisting in writing legal opinions rather than conducting research or legal analysis.

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As stated in the new guidance issued by the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary in December, Judges in England and Wales can now utilise AI to assist them in drafting legal rulings. AI can aid in writing legal opinions but cannot be used for research or legal analyses due to the potential for the technology to generate misleading, inaccurate, and biassed results. Judges are urged to protect confidence and take personal responsibility for their work while utilising AI.

Although this recent guidance places England and Wales at the forefront of addressing AI in courts, it is not the first set of guidelines on using AI in the legal system. The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice of the Council of Europe issued an ethical charter five years ago. However, the new guidance is expected to be widely adopted by courts and jurists worldwide. Legal experts applaud the judiciary for addressing the use of AI and believe that the guidance will be valuable for courts and judges. However, concerns have been raised regarding the lack of accountability mechanisms and the enforcement of the document, including potential sanctions for noncompliance.

The guidance acknowledges the limitations of AI technology and advises against using chatbots, such as ChatGPT, which can generate fabricated information. Judges are also advised against disclosing private or confidential information to chatbots. The guidance further emphasises that AI systems have primarily been trained on legal material based on US law.

Nevertheless, judges can still employ AI as a supplementary tool for tasks such as composing background material or summarising information they already possess. In related news, many participants in the legal industry are restructuring their practices to accommodate the use of generative AI. While this technology offers significant efficiency gains, it raises questions about security, privacy, and ethics.