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The roll-out of HM Courts and Tribunal Service’s (HMCTS) Common Platform is due to continue in Essex this week, despite calls for the system’s deployment to be paused.
The government originally began trialling the digital case management system in September 2020 before the official roll-out began in March 2021, aiming to provide a single, streamlined digital resource for defence professionals.
The system replaces five existing applications with one, and enables 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, and manual document handling.
However, the roll-out of the digital case system has been controversial, particularly after a BBC Radio 4 programme reported that the system was in some cases failing to record accurate information, or mis-recording information.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and its members have been vocal about the deployment, saying there are many issues with the system, including the “impact it is having on our members’ wellbeing and, ultimately, the delivery of justice”.
Earlier this year, the union opened negotiations with HMCTS, calling for the roll-out to be paused while the issues were investigated. The union’s members voted for strike action because they say the system is not fit for purpose. However, the strike action was postponed due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
In September 2022, the PCS announced that HMCTS had agreed to pause the roll-out until early 2023 as negotiations with the union continued.
However, a HMCTS spokesperson told Computer Weekly that the roll-out had not been paused, and the system is on track to go live in courts across Essex this week.
“Common Platform is fundamental to modernising the court system – replacing out-of-date systems and freeing up court staff for other vital work,” said an HMCTS spokesperson.
“We will continue to work closely with staff to support them through this transition – including listening to their views on the pace of roll-out – and want to thank all the judges, court staff and others who have contributed to its design and implementation.”
The union said it was disappointed with the plans to continue the roll-out, and would continue to plan for strike action.
“PCS will continue to negotiate with HMCTS in the hope of dispute resolution, but HMCTS must recognise that this has been made harder by them continuing to roll out the Common Platform to more courts,” said the union in a statement.
“This move to continue the roll-out of Common Platform this week means PCS will again be forced to use the two overwhelming mandates for industrial action to progress dispute resolution in this case. We are now seeking the authority from the PCS National Disputes Committee to give notice to HMCTS for industrial action.”
The system has so far managed 243,000 hearings in Magistrates’ Courts around the country, and 158,000 hearings in Crown Courts.
According to HMCTS, the system has been designed to be flexible and it is continuously updating and improving the software.
Read more about technology and the justice system
- Ministry of Justice receives enforcement notice from information commissioner over ‘substantial’ backlog of subject access requests described as being of ‘significant concern’.
- HM Prison and Probation Service’s programme to transform the tagging of offenders has failed to deliver after software platform was scrapped.
- The Common Platform digital system aims to make it easier to share and manage case information across the criminal justice system.