Courts IT upgrade complete by 2020, says HMCTS chief

Topics: Criminal justice,Courts business

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  • Natalie Ceeney

The upgrading of IT in England and Wales courts will be complete within four years, the chief executive of HMCTS has confirmed.

Speaking during an appearance before the House of Commons public accounts committee, Natalie Ceeney (pictured) said changes were being introduced gradually but are progressing.

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HMCTS has been granted £700m from the Treasury to overhaul courts and tribunals and modernise the service.

Ceeney said  Wi-Fi is now installed in all criminal courts with white screens and 'Click Share' technology available at all sites.

Magistrates will be equipped with iPads in the next six months, and the courts agency is currently working on systems to transfer electronic data from the Crown Prosecution Service to magistrates’ courts. Pleas online will also be extended across the country after a test scheme.

‘The good news is we’re doing some of it now,’ said Ceeney. ‘The approach we’re taking is not to do a big IT system, we’re doing lots of small things that together over the next four years will improve things. We’re not going to wait four years for it to happen, we’re going to do it incrementally.’

Ceeney, a former management consultant who joined HMCTS in January 2015, was questioned by MPs whether she had the backing of judges in trying to upgrade the court service.

‘The judiciary are on board with all the reform programmes we’re doing, that’s the big step forward,’ she said. ‘We work absolutely in partnership with the judiciary. I speak to the judiciary every day – they are championing these initiatives.’

She confirmed that the HMCTS staffing budget will be cut by 40% over the course of this parliament.

Ceeney and Ministry of Justice permanent secretary Richard Heaton also gave some extra information on the potential devolution of criminal justice to Greater Manchester, as announced in George Osborne’s budget on Wednesday.

They confirmed that decision-making powers in court would not be transferred, but local authorities would have more say in which buildings are used and when courts are open.

Heaton confirmed that Manchester had approached the MoJ to ask for some criminal justice powers and he was open to offers from other regions that want to do the same.

Readers' comments (7)

  • Government IT schemes seldom come in on time. A great many fail completely. The £700m budget does not seem enough to equip, maintain and train. My guess is that IT will come in fairly soon but 2020 is just too optomistic. Lets hope the software suppliers are not the same as those who screwed up the NHS.

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  • Whatever happened to CYCLOPS?

    Could Stephen Mason tell us?

    Actually could he tell us why it wasn't a game changer?

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  • Was it Cyclops or something else?

    The one that they finally pulled when it got to about a Billion I recall.

    I cant see anything on line about it.

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  • "She confirmed that the HMCTS staffing budget will be cut by 40% over the course of this parliament."

    So expect customer service to tank over the next few years from an already very low base.

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  • "They confirmed that decision-making powers in court would not be transferred, but local authorities would have more say in which buildings are used and when courts are open."

    Funny that. I seem to remember a committee of local authorities that dealt with Magistrates' Courts. Think it used to be called the "Magistrates' Courts Committee". And they decided which buildings were used, and when courts were open (and even owned the actual buildings, and employed the staff).

    It got changed when the LCD Courts Service changed to MOJ HMCS.

    But given that there are no courts left (and Greater Manchestoh is the place where they have centralised and closed courts the most) this is a pretty pointless power to have.

    And the IT upgrade will be amazing, I'm sure. For example, I received a letter from the County Court Bulk Centre recently saying that they now accept emails for all queries and if you type the correct word in the subject line, it will get filtered automatically.

    So they've finally brought the court service technology kicking and screaming into 1994-1995!

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  • @Anonymous18 March 2016 11:19 am:

    Well why not?

    I think we should have bare knuckle fighting in the street (well I mean more than there is now, and amongst all litigants not just Wayne fresh from watching X Factor)).

    I think that it was in the 1818 they abolished Trial by Battle (Ashford v Thornton 1818 1 B & Ald 405 (Stat. 59 Geo III Ch 46)). Let's have it back please (I'll provide the popcorn (well for those there early enough to get ring side seats)....

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  • Now she has resigned. She hasn't achieved anything!

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