Researchers in China say they have achieved a world first by developing a machine that can charge people with crimes using artificial intelligence.

The machine was built and tested by the Shanghai Pudong People’s Procuratorate, China’s busiest district prosecution office. The researchers claim the technology can decide on charges with more than 97 per cent accuracy based on a verbal description of the case.

The technology could reduce prosecutors’ daily workload, allowing them to focus on more difficult tasks, according to Professor Shi Yong, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ big data and knowledge management laboratory, who is the project’s lead scientist.

China’s prosecutors were early adopters when they began using AI in 2016. Many of them now use an AI tool known as System 206.

The tool can evaluate the strength of evidence, conditions for an arrest and how dangerous a suspect is considered to be to the public.

The machine was “trained” using more than 17,000 cases from 2015 to 2020. So far, it can identify and press charges for Shanghai’s eight most common crimes.

They are credit card fraud, running a gambling operation, dangerous driving, intentional injury, obstructing official duties, theft, fraud and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – a catch-all charge often used to stifle dissent.

According to scmp