MoJ sorry for digital billing glitches

Topics: Legal aid and access to justice,Government & politics

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The Ministry of Justice has had to apologise twice this week after solicitors encountered two separate IT problems.

Some legal aid solicitors have been unable to access a soon-to-be-mandatory digital legal aid billing system since Monday.

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The Legal Aid Agency’s client and cost management system (CCMS), which is used to submit civil legal aid applications, will become mandatory for all civil case types from 1 April.

A spokesperson for the agency said the matter was ‘under investigation as a high priority and we apologise for any inconvenience caused’.

Legal aid providers are being informed of ‘alternative sources of help’ via a messaging service on the online portal and a recorded message on the telephone support service.

Earlier this year the Association of Costs Lawyers said its concerns about the system’s billing functionality had still not been addressed ‘and we fear they will not be’.

The system, which was piloted in the north-east in 2013, was scheduled to become mandatory in October last year. In June the agency announced that CCMS users would be required to use the system for all new casework from 1 February.

But it subsequently announced that CCMS would be mandatory only for special Children Act applications from 1 February.

The ministry issued a second apology over ‘performance issues’ in relation to the government’s criminal justice secure email service (CJSM).

CJSM enables practitioners to send emails containing sensitive data in a secure way.

An update on the CJSM homepage states that ‘performance issues’ have arisen following ’unprecedented demand’ and suggested that users moved to a more primitive email protocol - POP3 - requiring less bandwidth. 

It continues: ‘You may consider moving to POP3 access which will allow you to receive your email in your normal email client (eg Outlook).’

A spokesperson for the ministry told the Gazette: ‘The email system used by our criminal justice systems is running slower than usual, but remains secure and encrypted.

‘We have written to users to apologise for this and we are working to resolve it as soon as possible. In the meantime, users continue to send and receive secure emails relating to their work through an alternative version of the system without any issues.’

Webmail is the only part of the CJSM system that has been affected, the ministry confirmed.

Readers' comments (7)

  • Who is in charge at LAA of CCMS? Why is he still employed?
    Problem with CJSM email is that it doesn't like modern versions of Outlook. This has been a known deficiency in the system for years. Meantime a new system is being developed for online, digitalised Magistrates' Court criminal work. Gawd 'elp uz!!

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  • Can anyone name a HMG IT system which has not cost £millions and which has worked properly?

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  • Good point Arthur but given that Mr Hugh Barrett of the LAA has presided over tender debacle upon tender debacle and still remains in post I wouldn't hold out any hope that Mr or Mrs CCMS will suddenly get to spend more time in their garden

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  • Most people want a decent, workable online system, and don't want to have to go back to paper. It is crazy that in the 21st century so much of this is still done on paper. So the aim surely has to be to get to a point where this system works well enough for everyone.

    The person currently in charge of CCMS at the LAA was appointed part way through the process, and inherited the system as originally launched. This person has been given the job of turning a terrible system into a workable one. It's still not there yet, but it is moving in the right direction. The people who deserve the blame are the ones who launched the original grossly inadequate system on the profession.

    It seems that the problem this week is with the MoJ's online portal, not with CCMS itself. That is little comfort to anyone trying to access the system, but if we are going to assign blame, let's at least make sure we assign it in the right direction.

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  • David, I have never had a problem with the Land Registry.

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  • Lucky you Ian as I personally know quite a few who have

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  • The CCMS (Upgraded) version of CCMS was undoubtedly much improved from the old version. Since the planned system maintenance of 5 & 6 March 2016, it has all gone wrong. Again, just like before.

    Our staff are either not being able to log in or facing log in times of up to 20 minutes, and after getting in, being kicked out. We have also noted that accessing the log in page from the LAA portal and then logging in is much quicker before 9am. After that time, it slows down considerably or generates a “No Response from Application Web Server” error message so I also wonder if it is also a server capacity issue? I too am in favour of a modern system, but we are just 18 days away from mandatory applications via the LAA portal which hasn’t worked properly or at all for the last 7 days.

    What matters is that we are able to properly serve our clients and the big question of course is whether "under investigation as a high priority" will actually result in it working properly by 1 April? With a sense of futility, I have absolute confidence that it won’t be working properly by then, but I also do not expect the LAA to delay the date any further. Better to deliver an expensive government IT project even if it is malfunctioning.

    C’mon LAA. Get your act together. Quickly.

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