PCS union plans strikes over new case management system but courts service says ‘no evidence’ that it is compromising justice
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) staff have told the BBC that its new Common Platform digital case-management system is misrecording or failing to record pleas and case results.
A magistrates’ court legal adviser told Radio 4’s File on Four programme that he entered a case result banning a man from driving, but later noticed it had recorded a result that would have left him able to drive. “It’s a good job we remembered the case otherwise it would have been missed,” he told the programme. “That’s scary because this person wouldn’t have been disqualified, they’d have been on the road – a threat to others.”
The BBC programme was also given details of a case where someone was held in prison for days after they should have been released following a fault related to Common Platform and says it has spoken to numerous court staff who have experienced information disappearing.
Legal advisers and court associates who are members of the PCS union plan to strike from 10 to 18 September over the introduction of Common Platform, and the union is running a ballot of a second group of members employed by the service. It says the system is not fit for purpose and is damaging its members’ health, safety and well-being.
HMCTS responded that there is ‘no evidence’ that the system is compromising justice. “Common Platform is fundamental to modernising the court system – replacing out of date systems not fit for purpose and freeing up court staff for the work they can add most value to,” said a spokesperson.
“It has already successfully managed over 158,000 criminal cases and there is no evidence that Common Platform is compromising justice or putting parties at risk. We will continue to work closely with staff to support them through this transition and want to thank all the judges, court staff and others who have contributed to its design and implementation.”
Common Platform was introduced on a test basis in 18 courts in September 2020. In June this year, HMCTS’s crime programme director Paula Potter wrote that, following reviews and upgrades, including addressing problems with slow processing speeds, Common Platform would go live in more criminal courts over July and August. It is now in use in 136 courts, three-fifths of the total.
There were 10 claims for unlawful arrest and detention in 2021/22, compared with nine in both of the previous years.