Safety of probation system questioned

Home Office faces prospect of legal action after directive to probation staff

Home Office faces prospect of legal action after directive to probation staff

The Home Office could face legal action from probation officers after they were told to continue using a bug-ridden IT system that has been condemned on health and safety grounds.

The Unix-based Case Record and Management System (Crams) is the probation service's key business system, but it has been subject to years of complaint from users. These complaints have been backed by two damning independent ergonomic reports.

Responding to user pressure, Home Office minister Paul Boateng said last Christmas that Crams would be replaced over 12 months with Copernicus, a new Windows-based system.

However Copernicus has been put on hold while the Government tries to develop a criminal justice system backed by integrated IT.

Plans to put Copernicus out to tender were pulled after the Government's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency warned that Copernicus might not be compatible with the much delayed Quantum prison service IT project.

The Home Office told Computer Weekly, "Given the demands on the probation service it was felt this was not the time to impose further IT-related change."

"We are committed to replacing Crams," a spokeswoman added.

Sally Springate, client director at Bull, which holds the probation service's IT outsourcing contract, said the Home Office had signed new contracts that would give Crams users significantly improved levels of support.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the probation offices union NAPO, said, "We believe Crams to be in contravention of health and safety regulations and will be pursuing the matter with our lawyers with a view to pulling the plugs."

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