MoJ’s £1bn courts digitisation plans blighted by inadequate and unreliable systems

Select committee finds the Wi-Fi facilities and poor standard of video conferencing are in dire need of upgrade

Ongoing plans to digitally transform the UK courts system to the tune of 1.2 billion are riddled with issues spanning from problems with online systems to the quality of Wi-Fi.

Poor digital skills among court users, limited access and unreliable technology are several factors that could scupper the Ministry of Justice's (MoJ's) plans to transform the courts system, the House of Commons' Justice Committee has claimed.

The digital transformation itself, too, is being threatened by the persistent use of unreliable video equipment and terrible Wi-Fi facilities, with plans to upgrade these in desperate need of expedition.

"We understand that courts and tribunals are strained to breaking, with systems that ever more people are having to try to navigate for themselves," said committee chair Bob Neill MP. "Court staff and the judiciary are trying hard to improve services in the face of underfunding and cuts."

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

The modernisation programme aims to transform processes and introduce aspects like more IT, and video hearings, as court and magistrates buildings continue to close. The report highlights, for instance, that half of magistrates' courts have closed, along with more than a third of county courts, between 2010 and 2018.

Moreover, users with limited access to computers, poor literacy, and limited understanding of how the law works could be left behind, and go through the justice process without any adequate legal advice.

The continued digital transformation project has run into several snags since its conception, with another committee of MPs suggesting in 2018 the government had been "cutting corners" in a bid to rush this through.

The MoJ was told that it risked botching the 1.2 billion project due to an unrealistic timetable and a lack of proper consultation. Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) had also not clearly explained what the changes would mean in practice.

As part of the Justice Committee's latest probe, MPs received evidence savaging the infrastructure that exists across the courts system, particularly the standard of Wi-Fi.

For example, the Common Platform, used in the Crown Court, was a source of extreme difficulty in terms of retrieving electronic documents for particular individuals, including jurors. If plans to extend this platform to magistrates' courts were to go ahead, the "wholly inadequate" Wi-Fi would further disrupt the service.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The committee has recommended there be more face-to-face advice, despite attempts to introduce remote networking into the mix, because certain court users do not have the requisite knowledge about the legal system. Paper-based processes should also be retained for people who do not have access to technology.

Although modernisation is "desperately needed" the committee was clear that it cannot come at the expense of "shutting off justice" for members of the public who will be left behind. Court buildings that haven't yet been closed should be repaired, the committee concluded, particularly aspects like video equipment and Wi-Fi, which cannot be relied upon as things stand, even for the most tech-literate.

The standard of video equipment itself is also unreliable or of poor quality, the MPs found, and HMCTS must immediately bring forward plans to upgrade the video equipment and Wi-Fi facilities throughout all criminal courts.

Featured Resources

How inkjet can transform your business

Get more out of your business by investing in the right printing technology

Download now

Journey to a modern workplace with Office 365: which tools and when?

A guide to how Office 365 builds a modern workplace

Download now

Modernise and transform your sales organisation

Learn how a modernised sales process can drive your business

Download now

Your guide to managing cloud transformation risk

Realise the benefits. Mitigate the risks

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/strategy/28047/what-is-digital-transformation
Business strategy

What is digital transformation?

7 Aug 2019

Most Popular

Visit/mobile/28299/how-to-use-chromecast-without-wi-fi
Mobile

How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi

5 Feb 2020
Visit/operating-systems/microsoft-windows/354789/microsoft-pulls-disastrous-windows-10-security-update
Microsoft Windows

Microsoft pulls disastrous Windows 10 security update

17 Feb 2020
Visit/operating-systems/27717/how-to-fix-a-stuck-windows-10-update
operating systems

How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

12 Feb 2020
Visit/business/business-operations/354790/hp-shareholders-invited-to-come-dine-with-xerox
Business operations

HP shareholders invited to come dine with Xerox

17 Feb 2020