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Courts to trial digital case management system from September 2020

The Common Platform digital system will eventually replace a series of existing software applications, and will be rolled out to criminal courts over the next year

Several crown and magistrates’ courts will begin testing a new digital case management system before it’s rolled out to all criminal courts over a 12-month period.

The system, called Common Platform, will be trialled by early adopter courts across England and Wales, and will replace five existing applications with one single system.

The aim is to allow all parties to get digital access to information about a case, such as charges, evidence and results, reducing the need for paper documents, copying information from one system to another, as well as manual document handling.

Access to information can also be securely controlled to make sure a person only sees information that’s appropriate to them.

Derby Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court will be the first to begin the trial. Amanda Lowndes, Midlands head of crime, said she is pleased it has been chosen as the first of the early adopter courts to test the Common Platform digital product.

“It shows the confidence placed in us that we can successfully rise to the challenge in these uncertain times. I’d like to thank everyone involved for their hard work and the commitment they have shown to supporting the testing of this new digital platform,” she said.

“I’m confident that by providing all the criminal case information in one place, and in a digital format, the Common Platform will help us support all organisations in the criminal justice system.”

“It will help us to work more effectively together, reduce delays and make evidence sharing easier. We’re very keen to work with our judges and others to test this digital product in our court.”

Courts will begin trialling the new system in September 2020, and once the trial phase is complete it will be gradually rolled out across criminal courts in England and Wales.

In May 2020, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) began rolling out a video platform to be used for criminal hearings in courts across England and Wales.

The platform has been used to conduct remote criminal hearings during the coronavirus pandemic, in move that aimed to give judges and magistrates “more options for avoiding adjournments and keeping business moving through the courts to help reduce delays in the administration of justice and alleviate the impact on families, victims, witnesses and defendants”, according to HMCTS.

The courts system is amidst a huge digital overhaul. A £1bn programme to overhaul the courts through the use of technology aims to introduce online services, digital case files and to use video technology in court hearings through a common platform, allowing information to be shared between HMCTS, the Crown Prosecution Service and the police.

Read more about IT in the justice system

  • A Commons Select Committee report has voiced a number of concerns about the ongoing transformation efforts led by the Ministry of Justice and called for actions such as maintenance of non-digital services.
  • Significant IT issues at HM Courts and Tribunal Service have caused chaos across the UK’s courts as users have been unable to connect to the network and use IT systems that require access to it. 
  • The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary will increase the use of technology in court proceedings as emergency legislation is being drafted to expand powers to allow criminal courts to hold remote hearings during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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