Felix Pergande - Fotolia

Digital court system reaches first key milestones

The platform rolled out at Crown Courts in England and Wales a year ago has increased speed and efficiency of online citizen services and saved 100 million sheets of paper so far

HM Courts & Tribunals (HMCTS) has reported savings and operational efficiencies deriving from its digital case system as it approaches the end of the first year of implementation.

The core platform was introduced in May 2018 and is in place at all Crown Courts across England and Wales. Case material is accessed through the system, then prepared and presented digitally by the judge, clerk, defence, prosecution and probation.

According to HMCTS, the system has enhanced court efficiency and collaboration, while saving time and resources for stakeholders across the criminal justice system as well as legal professionals.

The digital court system has saved more than 100 million sheets of paper, the department said. Before the implementation of the system, court staff had to print “thousands of pieces of paper every day”, which were then filed and distributed across various physical locations before being taken to and from court.

More than 35,000 divorce applications were made online since the system was launched. According to HMCTS, the digital court system enabled a reduction in errors in applications from 40% to less than 1%.

Since the roll-out of the platform, HMCTS’s online civil money claims service has had almost 60,000 applications. Claims now take 10 minutes on average to be issued, compared with the 15-day timescale of the previous paper-based service.

“The judges in our Crown Courts have been enthusiastic supporters of the use of Digital Case System,” said Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett. “It has transformed the way in which criminal cases are conducted and improved immeasurably the administration of justice.”

Early last year, a National Audit Office (NAO) report was pleased with the progress made around the HMCTS transformation, an ambitions £1.2bn programme to modernise courts with new functionality such as video technology for court hearings.

But the NAO report also found that challenges related to the scale of technology and cultural change involved would mean the programme’s outcomes would be more modest than expected and would take longer to achieve.

Last summer, The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a scathing report on the HMCTS transformation programme, saying it has “little confidence” in its success and that, despite extending the timetable, “HMCTS has already fallen behind, delivering only two-thirds of what it expected”.

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