The three-year £1 billion reform program for courts and tribunals in England and Wales has already overrun four years longer than planned, cost around 10% more than originally expected and saved £310m less than previously expected in 2019.
Court orders for public protection are not being correctly implemented due to data errors in the digital case management systems, according to findings released by the National Audit Office. The parliamentary watchdog said that ‘in 35 cases an individual was not fitted with an electronic monitoring tag when they should have been.’ These individuals are believed to be convicted criminals released into the community on licence.
The area of most concern is a project that hoped to create a single online system that unites the work of the criminal courts and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) – the “common platform.” Common platform was intended to reduce inefficiencies by creating a system that allowed authorised users to track the entirety of each case from charge to verdict.
The Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and CPS recognised a single case management system to be the riskiest option due to the scale of the demanded changes, “but believed this option would maximise the project’s benefits.” The platform has proven to be more difficult than anticipated, and the project team “lacked a clear understanding of CPS’s requirements,” the National Audit Office report stated.
The system led to delays, a waste of £22.5 million, and further performance issues. The national implementation of the platform paused for seven months while the issues and “several major incidents” were addressed. Rollout was suspended for two more weeks when the system failed to send 3,011 important notifications to partner agencies. During seven months of the rollout, HMCTS recorded 231 critical incidents.
The National Audit have identified mistakes made by the HMCTS, reporting they did not sufficiently assure that the platform was fit for purpose before implementation, causing performance issues. They failed to set evaluative criteria before the system’s national roll out and did not clarify how it would judge whether the criteria would be met. HMCTS also did not leave adequate time to learn from early-adopter site evaluations; and adopted an online self-directed training approach which had to be extended to live support and more training.