Courtroom IT system ‘placing justice in danger’, workers declare

An IT system is inflicting key details about court docket circumstances in England and Wales to alter or disappear and is placing justice in danger, the BBC has been instructed.One authorized adviser revealed how he entered a driving ban within the system, known as Widespread Platform, solely to later uncover the end result had modified.

Workers say warnings about alleged faults, describing it as “essentially flawed”, have been ignored.

The federal government stated there was no proof justice is being compromised.

Widespread Platform was constructed to switch outdated software program within the felony courts with one system which permits judges, attorneys, the CPS and courts to entry case data in a single place.

The brand new system, which began going dwell in 2020 and has a £300m funds, is being utilized in 136 courts in England and Wales – equal to 60% of the whole – with the remainder as a result of undertake it by early subsequent yr.

James (not his actual identify) is a magistrates’ court docket authorized adviser – a lawyer whose job it’s to offer authorized recommendation to put magistrates and handle proceedings within the court docket.

Underneath the brand new Widespread Platform regime, he’s additionally liable for getting into the outcomes of circumstances into the system.

He instructed the BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme he appropriately entered the outcomes of a case by which a person was to be banned from driving solely to find later the end result had modified.

“The outcomes that appeared on Widespread Platform weren’t the outcomes we imposed,” he stated.

“It is a good job we remembered the case in any other case it could have been missed.

“That is scary as a result of this individual would not have been disqualified, they’d have been on the street – a menace to others.”

Quite a few different court docket workers additionally instructed the BBC of cases by which key data disappeared, together with pleas entered and the case end result.

File on 4 has additionally been given particulars of a case by which a person was held in jail for days longer than they need to have been, after a Widespread Platform-related fault.

The PCS union, which represents court docket workers, claims repeated warnings about faults have been ignored by the courts service – which prompted authorized advisors and court docket associates within the magistrates’ court docket to vote to take strike motion over the system beginning on 10 September.
Horizon scandal

James is amongst those that stated he has warned the court docket service about faults with Widespread Platform.

He likens the way in which it has dealt with the roll-out of Widespread Platform to the Put up Workplace IT scandal – which noticed greater than 700 department managers given felony convictions as a result of faults within the Horizon software program.

He stated: “I keep in mind watching the programme on the Horizon system for the Put up Workplace, considering ‘that is what we have got – there is a system that is altering issues and never reflecting the reality.’ It makes me really feel fairly sick enthusiastic about it.

“You’re feeling so helpless since you report it and no one needs to know.”

Professor Alan Woodward, an IT knowledgeable and visiting professor on the College of Surrey, urged the court docket service to pause its roll-out and interact with the considerations being raised.

“Everyone was telling sub-postmasters it was their fault and solely a few years later did the Put up Workplace admit truly the software program was in error”, he stated.

“Individuals know software program just isn’t infallible. You have to convey them [staff] together with you – show and show to them it’s truly working.”

A HM Courts and Tribunal Service spokesperson stated: “Widespread Platform is prime to modernising the court docket system – changing old-fashioned methods not match for goal and releasing up court docket workers for the work they’ll add most worth to.

“It has already efficiently managed over 158,000 felony circumstances and there’s no proof that Widespread Platform is compromising justice or placing events in danger.

“We are going to proceed to work carefully with workers to help them by means of this transition and wish to thank all of the judges, court docket workers and others who’ve contributed to its design and implementation.”

In response to parallels being drawn with the Put up Workplace Horizon scandal a HMCTS spokesperson added: “We have now by no means ignored considerations which can be raised and in July 2021 we took motion to pause the rollout of Widespread Platform as we addressed points that customers had been going through.”

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