The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has announced a five-year programme to update and replace the technology used in courts and tribunals across the UK.
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HM Courts & Tribunals Service will invest an average of up to £75m a year over five years from 2015/16 to deliver more efficient and effective administration in courts and tribunals with the aim of saving more than £100m a year by 2019/20.
The MOJ says the current technology estate is out of date, relying on paper-based processes which cause delays and costs because staff have to waste time on manual data entry. The service offers few digital channels for the public, who still have to hand-write forms, visit courthouses or tribunals in person to lodge documents, and pay fees by cheque.
The MOJ said the taxpayer continues to bear the rising costs of the manual systems.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling said: “This new investment will help cement our system as one of the best in the world, ensure the sustainability of the system and deliver value for money for hard-working taxpayers. More importantly, it will ensure that the experience of victims and witnesses is as comfortable and pain-free as possible, with an efficient service for those who need access to our courts and tribunals.”
The technology across HM Courts & Tribunals’ 3,000 courtrooms will be updated or replaced to speed up and modernise the estate's systems. The MOJ says that once more services are made available online, users and the legal professionals will only need to go to a court or tribunal when absolutely necessary.
The MOJ is already using video technology across the criminal justice system and has created a fully digital court in Birmingham. Four public services – civil claims, employment tribunal fee payment, lasting power of attorney and prison visit bookings – are being developed digitally under the Government Digital Service’s (GDS) transformation programme. These services, along with 25 other ‘exemplar’ services, were chosen to digitise by March 2015.
The technology reform led and implemented by HM Courts & Tribunals Service will include:
- Single integrated system: The current range of outdated computer systems will be replaced with a single integrated system to allow electronic case management.
- Online self-service system: Legal professionals and other users will be able to complete court and tribunal forms, make court fee payments digitally, or initiate claims for debt repayment, personal injury or housing disputes. This will reduce reliance on manual entry, speeding up processes and reducing delays. There will also be increased use of videolinks, digital presentation of documentation in court and Wi-Fi for legal practitioners.
- Modernisation of estate to make better use of buildings: This will improve facilities and reduce costs, for example enabling hearings under different jurisdictions to take place in the same building.
- Upgrade of facilities for victims and witnesses: This will include waiting areas to make their experience more comfortable, and a refurbishment of advocates’ rooms.
- Modern, accessible and fit-for-purpose facilities.