Friday, 7 April 2017

Court IT

Yesterday's post seems to have struck a cord with practitioners amply demonstrating just how far back probation IT problems go and how TR was never going to work with such a crap system. We know the MoJ has 'form' in mis-handling commissioning and according to this on 'The Register' website, things don't seem to be going well with the court IT project:-

Hundreds of millions 'wasted' on UK court digitisation scheme

Hundreds of millions of pounds have been wasted on plans to digitise the criminal justice system due to the mismanagement of a key programme that has so far delivered little value to the taxpayer, according to multiple insiders.

The Common Platform Programme (CPP) was supposed to be complete by March 2019. However, a spokeswoman from HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said the programme will not be complete until 2020 at a revised cost of £270m.

The project began in 2014 with the intention of creating a unified platform across the criminal justice system to allow the Crown Prosecution Service and courts to more effectively manage cases. Programme director Loveday Ryder had described the project as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to modernise the criminal justice system.

But The Register understands that over the last 30 months, a series of independent and internal reviews have documented the programme's failings, with all the key milestones having been missed.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), which monitors large programmes across government, recently flagged the programme as an amber-red risk, according to sources. That means delivery on time and on budget is unlikely. An internal review last year described the culture within the programme as "toxic".

Yet huge amounts of cash have continued to be signed off, despite sources claiming only one meaningful service has so far been delivered: an online self-service system for magistrates to manage their sittings.

One crucial component of the system, an identity access management system to allow professionals to log on and view cases remotely, has yet to be delivered despite £40m having been spent on it. Without that portal, users will be unable to access cases online – the main purpose of the project.

Sources say the programme has been overly focused on building the platform in house, rather than buying off-the-shelf software. They describe what has been produced so far as "vapourware".

Particular scorn has been directed at the so-called "agile experts" who have been in charge of managing the programme. "There is no plan, no artefacts, no direction, just constant excuses," said one insider. "How they can still be in place as well as still being allowed to recruit 'experts' with absolutely no delivery after 30 months is scandalous."

Multiple sources have also questioned the potential conflict of interest in members of the management board also owning companies to have contractors working on the programme.

"The continued waste on trying to deliver this programme is outrageous," said one insider, who asked why the programme should be allowed to continue in its current form – or indeed at all.

The CPP is part of a broader £1bn programme across the Ministry of Justice to make courts fully digital. That has already been identified by chief exec of the civil service John Manzoni as one of the biggest projects keeping him awake at night. Those concerns have also been echoed by Public Accounts Committee head Meg Hillier.

Live services so far include: an online make a plea programme which allows people to plead guilty or not guilty to traffic offences; a digital markup tool for legal advisors to record case results in court, which is being tested by magistrates courts in Essex; and the Magistrates Rota.

The Register understands that since then the project has failed to progress further. One insider said that if the programme were following proper agile principles, by this stage there ought to be at least a dozen meaningful services available across the criminal justice system.

Last year the IPA also gave the project an amber/red rating, based on assessment in September 2015. It said this reflected the "complexity of the programme and the innovative use of agile development principles".

The Register asked the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS why so much cash has been spent; what actions it intends to take to address the serious governance problems raised; and why money continued to be signed off on a programme that has so far failed to deliver.

In a boiler plate response, an HMCTS spokeswoman said: "The Common Platform Programme is a partnership between HMCTS, the Crown Prosecution Service and police and has strong support from the judiciary.

"It provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design and build a fully connected criminal courtroom by 2020. This will enable practitioners to access and share relevant criminal case management information and make the best use of technology such as video links to improve the experience for victims and witnesses."


  1. I am sure Fancy Bear hackers are watching developments with smacking lips.

  2. Then there was the plan to integrate Prison IT with the rest of the CJS - how is that going or are the prison service STILL using LIDS & how do NPS and CRCs access it, or whatever has replaced LIDS?

    I am reminded of this by that trip back in time from yesterday & the 2001 review of CRAMS that finally consigned it to the bin from where it should never have emerged.

    Just think of the impact that could have been made if half of that wasted money had been spent on client services?

    It was knowing about such nonsenses from decades ago, that convinced me that unless there was a vast improvement from "my day" working in a prison (1997-2002)that payment by (accurate) results was an absolute non starter.

    I am pretty sure that at times the prison service does not even have an accurate record of who a prisoner actually is - I can recall & it was not unusual - at just one prison - to find the same prisoner had three separate files from different Receptions, considering that some folk get sentenced in different places, it is very probable (is it not?) that hundreds or thousand of convicts have duplicate and triplicate records across the nation and then if they travel between Scotland and Northern Ireland, or perish the thought, elsewhere in the EU even more multi records will be produced.

    Payment by Results - complete and utter tosh from the outset, and for Parliament not to have prevented it, considering the information it held was an absolute dereliction of duty.

    Public Service reforms need to start with parliament and the electoral system AND the Political Parties need to take a lead rather than capitalise on the shambles as they lust for power.

  3. From BBC news site 2004:

    "A £20m computer system to make courts work faster is to be extended to crown courts across England and Wales.
    The Xhibit 2 system will be extended to 101 crown courts. The system logs events during court proceedings and can send text messages to police and probation officers alerting them they are needed in court. It is being piloted at Snaresbrook Crown Court, east London, and will be extended by early 2006.
    It has been estimated the police alone could save up to 80,000 days of officers' time. The Department for Constitutional Affairs believes the system will save thousands of hours currently wasted when people are waiting to be called. The system is linked to the police's computer system and is exepected to speed up the actioning of orders and warrants issued by the courts. The government announced the plan to extend the scheme to all 101 crown courts across England and Wales."

    And from The Guardian in 2011:

    "The Libra magistrates' courts case management system has contributed to the inability of HM Courts Service to produce basic financial information to support its accounts, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO). The courts service uses Libra, plus information produced by local police forces' IT systems, to provide the auditor with accounts of the revenues it collects from fines, confiscation orders and penalties. On receipt of cash, for example, the courts service uses Libra to record the payment against the person on whom the fine was imposed. A similar system operates at the courts service's fixed penalty offices, using information from police forces, based principally on the Vehicle Procedures and Fixed Penalty Office system. Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: "Because of limitations in the underlying systems, HM Courts Service has not been able to provide me with proper accounting records relating to the collection of fines, confiscation orders and penalties. I have therefore disclaimed my audit opinion on its trust statement accounts."... The cost of Libra was £444m, plus services charges of some £10m a year. The system is now run by Fujitsu, but the original supplier, ICL, estimated its cost at £146m over 11 years when bidding for the project in May 1998."

    1. And this from The Guardian again in Nov 2003:

      "A huge project to put all the nation's magistrates courts on one computer system is condemned by a powerful committee of MPs today as one of the worst public finance projects they have seen. The cost of the scheme has risen from £146m to almost £400m, while it still does not deliver. The scheme, known as Libra, is an even worse fiasco than the computer systems put in place by the Passport Office, the Criminal Records Bureau and the Child Support Agency - to name three Whitehall scandals that have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds and inconvenienced millions of people... The project involves 11,000 PCs for courts in England and Wales. The deal, agreed by Geoff Hoon in his first job in government, as a junior minister in the Lord Chancellor's Department, aimed to streamline more than 300 magistrates court procedures, saving millions of pounds. The report by the Commons public accounts committee shows that it has done the opposite: Fujitsu, the computer company which took over ICL, has so far been paid £232m for a scheme that does not operate properly. The company was given a 10-year contract costing £146m but was unable to deliver the software. Instead, the government is paying £390m to Fujitsu and additional suppliers for an eight-year contract that is not as comprehensive as the original scheme. Richard Bacon, the Conservative MP for South Norfolk and a member of the committee, said: "This works out at over £21,000 per workstation during the life of the project... although you could go down to PC World and get a personal computer for £700."... The MPs point out that Fujitsu was also behind the benefits payment card project, which was cancelled with losses of £1.1bn."

    2. There is no point in Parliament even commissioning reviews and undertaking reports if those reviews are simply ignored by a subsequent parliament as another (new) government forces a bit of legislation through to meet the parliamentary timetable, driven by the media it can generate.

      Traditionally, I had the impression that HMGov undertook its own monitoring (that was what the old Home Office Research Unit was about - was it not?) now they just seem to buy/utilise half baked ideas from some industry funded Think Tank as we had with TR.

      Parliament has the power to take control but the House of Lords is fearful of asserting itself and individual elected MPs are mostly in hock to the Party system.

    3. Two years is a life time now in technology. Any system that takes several years longer then that to implement (as with the Universal Credit system) is going to be outdated or even obsolete before its even switched on.
      And I can't help thinking that soon lawyers giving evidence will be complaing about all the pop ups they're finding in their documents for PPI, Home and Life Insurance, Payday Loans, and No Win no fee solicitors.


  4. Probation Officer7 April 2017 at 10:55

    I really wish I had majored in IT instead. An IT contract on this type of programme is a licence to print money and rip off the government (who is throwing it away), all under the banner of progress.

    1. A headline that the FT has just given me

      "Public sector hit by temporary workers’ walkout over tax change

      Services struggle with shortage of IT experts as thousands of contractors quit"

      the article begins: -

      "7 HOURS AGO by: Vanessa Houlder and Sarah Neville

      The public sector is struggling to recruit IT specialists after a wave of walkouts by contractors affected by a tax change.

      IT specialists are among tens of thousands of temporary workers in the public sector — including locum doctors, nurses, social workers, engineers and managers — who will lose up to a quarter of their take-home pay under new tax rules that came into force on Thursday."

  5. Does anyone remember the index cards we used to keep, they never failed us, you could put your hand to any case without IT systems locking you out or having to go through numerous clicks to get to a case. Simple and effective, not all progress is good.

    1. Pen and paper and no fighting with spellchecker! Bring it back.

    2. Easy to update, quickly checked, all the key information available in seconds. Worked well for me...

    3. Rolladec & Kardex.


  7. A little off topic but can I just stress again how much we loath and despise our clueless and morally bankrupt parasite paymasters Interserve, and how their bizarre notion that Probation staff would have the slightest interest in celebrating being a part of what they risibly try to term the 'Interserve family' only makes us hate them all the more... The 'Interserve family' might just be the most repugnant notion I've encountered in my working life....

    1. Probation staff are about as much a part of the 'Interserve family' as the three women kidnapped and held in his basement for ten years by Ariel Castro were a part of his family

    2. The chief executive of the interserve owned cheshire and greater manchester CRC today warned staff that Interserve's losses in their waste business mean that we as a CRC will now have to tighten our belts! Better still, in spelling it out he detailed how we are now expected to respond to Interserve's incompetence by...being of sick less!!!

    3. Fuck Interswereve. I wish they would also loose their CRC contracts. Family my arse.

    4. And as for their 'Interchange model' - A list of words chosen purely because they start with the same five letters as 'interserve' is not a 'model', even if you have paid off a bunch of mercenary university hacks to pretend it is

  8. Again back to one of my previous posts the people that are banging the Interswerve drum are Probation staff ( Snr Probation officers etc ) - Chris Edwards and his cronies who are narcissists with fragile egos that belive all their own hype and who's bank balances are so much more important than the people that they trained and used to work closely with !! - Interswerve have obviously seen their greed and naivety as I'm sure when the going gets tougher Interswerve will ( here's hoping ) will kick them to the curb like they've done with everything and everyone else they've touched.

  9. Off topic. Is there any notable person, with clout at higher levels, who will speak directly to the MOJ, that amongst it's many, many failings, that the exponential rise in female prisoner suicides is completely unacceptable. Call me old fashioned but surely, please, this represents, along with failings to protect children in custody as a system plummeting to its depths.