With all Crown and magistrates’ court now connected, government announces milestone in rollout of troubled programme to implement a new unified case-management platform for use across the criminal justice system
All courts in England and Wales that hear criminal cases are now connected to the Common Platform IT system, the government has announced.
This includes the network of more than 150 magistrates’ courts and about 90 Crown courts – where more serious cases must be heard. The new platform has been created to a single digital case-management tool where all parties in the criminal-justice system – including police, prosecuting and defence lawyers, and courts staff – can access data and track the progress of cases. This replaces various manual and IT systems that were previously in use.
Justice minister Mike Freer said: “Common Platform is improving how we work to deliver justice. It will allow instant and seamless information sharing that will reduce errors and ensure vital details about cases can be seen quickly by all those involved in a case. Connecting every criminal court with partner agencies and professionals is helping make them fit for the future.”
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The implementation of Common Platform forms part of a wider long-term programme of transformation and digitisation across the courts system in England and Wales. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee recently published a scathing report that found that the scheme has less than 10% of its £1.3bn budget left, with barely half of its 44 individual reform projects currently completed.
The new digital case-management tool has been a particularly troubled strand of the broader transformation agenda, with courts workers having repeatedly gone on strike last year over reported issues with the system’s operation and the adverse impact officials claimed it was having on their wellbeing. Unions led a campaign – successfully, for a time – demanding that the rollout of the system be paused. Following a brief hiatus, deployment has continued.
Announcing the latest milestone in its implementation, HM Courts and Tribunals Service said that “the rollout of Common Platform has been delivered as a central part of the… reform programme to improve courts and tribunals for people who use them and for those working in them”.
HMCTS added that the digital system will mean “each user will only be able to see the information that is relevant to them… [and] also allows for changes and updates to a case to be made instantly, helping to make the justice process faster and more efficient”.
“New features will continue to be added to further improve information sharing and data accuracy across the justice system,” the courts service statement added.