‘Legal robots’ have been deployed on thousands of cases in China to help decide sentencing.
The robots – which are about three feet tall and have heads shaped like toasters – review documents and identify problems with cases.
They also advise on sentencing, and can generate arrest warrants and “approve indictments”, said prosecutors in the eastern province of Jiangsu, where the robots are being piloted.
Almost 15,000 legal cases have been reviewed by the robots since they were deployed last September, officials said at a press conference this week.
They have detected issues and corrected mistakes in more than half the cases, and 541 convictions were commuted.
The robots have helped to handle cases at seven city governments and more than 30 lower level authorities in Jiangsu. Many of the cases were traffic violations.
The robots move around on wheels and have a human-like torso, but no arms. They have a digital screen as a face which displays eyes and a mouth, and also information on cases.
Jiangsu is rapidly emerging as one of the country’s most modern provinces, after scores of manufacturers specialising in high-tech components set up locally.
One factory in the electronics hub of Kunshan, a city in Jiangsu, said last year it would cut 60,000 staff from its workforce and replace them with robots.
Officials piloting the legal robots have moved to allay fears that an incorrect analysis could result in an unfair appraisal for a suspect, saying that the machines do not make “subjective judgements”.
However, there appears to be little scope for flexibility in China’s Communist Party-controlled courts, where a near perfect conviction rate results in more than 99 percent of defendants being found guilty.