Feeds

NAO calls for better crown court IT

You are accused of providing useless IT. How do you plead?

Boost IT visibility and business value

The National Audit Office has called for improvements to two crucial crown court computer systems

In a review of the administration of crown courts, published on 6 March 2009, the NAO says the 20 year-old Crest case management system is no longer supported by its manufacturer and is subsequently vulnerable. In addition, the Xhibit system for real time information on the progress of trials is unreliable.

Crest, a non-Windows database system, was developed and introduced between 1989-92. Despite its old infrastructure and vulnerability it is still being used by about 2,500 staff, and it does not allow crown courts to automatically receive data on new cases. The transfer of cases from magistrates courts to crown courts involves photocopying, faxing and posting documents.

According to the report, crown courts spend about nine minutes per case rekeying data from magistrates' files, the total cost of which is estimated at over £300,000 a year.

Last year HM Court Service looked at the scope for creating an electronic link between Crest and the magistrates' courts case management system, but decided the project was not a priority. IT supplier Logica estimated the costs of developing the interface would be high at £600,000. In addition the service considered that the benefits would be limited until Crest is centralised.

The NAO says the introduction of Xhibit in 2006 transformed court procedure by enabling staff to keep a real time record of activities and relay the outcome of trials electronically. But almost all the court staff interviewed had concerns about its reliability and speed.

"A particular concern was that the system sometimes ran too slowly or crashed, especially on Mondays and Fridays when the courts were processing a significantly higher number of cases," says the report. Although an improvement programme is under way, the NAO says it is too early to assess how successful this has been.

Responsibilities for IT in crown courts are split between the Ministry of Justice, technology suppliers and the HM Courts Service, which has responsibility for identifying and funding requests for change and identifying long term requirements.

Tim Burr, head of the NAO, said: "HM Courts Service faces a tight budgetary position and needs to get the most from its estate, staff and IT resources if crown court cases are to start promptly. The service needs to improve its allocation and development of staff, so that it has enough well trained people in each of its court locations, and tackle weaknesses in IT systems which currently bring operational risks and impair efficiency."

Victor Almeida, senior analyst at Kable, said: "Courts have always been technology laggards in the UK public sector. Until a few years ago, some did not even have computers, let alone electronic case management systems, while others relied on legacy systems, including Crest.

"The Criminal Justice IT Programme, which was completed last year and of which Xhibit was part, aimed to reverse this by providing courts with modern ICT solutions and infrastructure. It is very disappointing that it has not lived up to the expectations, leaving courts in one of the hindmost seats of the modernisation of the UK public sector."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
German government orders local CIA station chief to pack his bags
Sour Krauts arrest second local in domestic spy ring probe
Report: UK.gov wants to legislate on comms data BEFORE next election
Ministerial alarm sets in over EU court's data retention ruling
Russian law will force citizens' personal data to be stored locally
Won't someone think of the software-as-a-service startups?
Russian MP fears US Secret Service cuffed his son for Snowden swap
Seleznev Jnr is 'prolific trafficker in stolen credit card data', it is alleged
Amazon begs Feds for drone test permission slip
Application for test flights reveals more details of Prime Air 'copters
'The writing is TOO SMALL': MPs row over Parliamentary move to Office 365
It's all jolly fiddly. And why aren't there more WOMEN in tech support? Eh?
Five arrested over money-grubbing fake UK.gov shocker
Trading standards raid houses across Blighty and suspend 25 copycat sites
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization
Virtualization continues to be one of the most effective ways to consolidate, reduce cost, and make data centers more efficient.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.