No replacement yet for £10m High Court IT failure
Justice officials have admitted they cannot say when a new computer system will replace a £10m failed attempt to upgrade IT in the High Court.
The Electronic Working System, designed to speed up cases in the Royal Courts of Justice, was ditched in March after what HM Courts & Tribunals Service called ‘serious issues with the quality of the core system’. According to a response to a freedom of information request, the eWorking system cost £9.33m to set up and a further £343,754 to close down.
HMCTS said the shutdown has now been completed after computer memories were securely wiped and new procedures put in place.
The department confirmed there are ‘no plans at the moment’ to implement an electronic working system as envisaged under the original project. A spokeswoman said: ‘Planning for an e-filing project is ongoing and we are not able to say when a new system will be introduced.’
The eWorking system was implemented in 2009 to improve the flow of information from court users across the Royal Courts of Justice by allowing them to submit files electronically. HMCTS said the system was designed in-house with the help of a number of specialist freelance contractors. Initial good progress was made, but over the final 18 months of the project take-up fell dramatically, with less than 1% of cases filed electronically in the first half of 2011.
The HMCTS board agreed on 30 March this year to cease further work on the system and to begin the process of decommissioning.
The failure of an electronic working system comes less than a year after the RCJ moved to the £300m Rolls Building, a state-of-the-art facility designed to become a world centre of dispute resolution.
Tony Guise, chairman of the Commercial Litigation Association, said the withdrawal of the system was ‘hugely disappointing’ but he remained hopeful a replacement could be found soon.
‘This has been needed for something like 20 years and it’s more urgent than ever now,’ he said. ‘There is competition from other jurisdictions - Dubai has a system in place and New York has something similar.
‘The shutdown was regrettable but frankly the writing had been on the wall for some time.
‘The positive thing is that [shutdown] is now behind us and the judiciary, civil service and the profession can find a solution for something everybody supports. I think it will be delivered sooner rather than later.’