One can imagine the scene at HMCTS headquarters this week.
In one room, sparsely decorated save for a Banksy reproduction, beanbag and table football, the blue-sky thinkers are setting out their vision for Justice 2022.
Meanwhile, down the corridor is a commotion. Exhausted IT engineers bang desks and scream obscenities at computer screens which simply refuse to work.
The disconnect between these two rooms is apparent to anyone who has an interest in justice issues. On the one hand there are massive resources being pumped into one of the most ambitious tech projects ever embarked upon by any justice department. On the other hand, they can’t get the phones to work. It’s no wonder lawyers and clients are wondering whether HMCTS has got its priorities right.
Whatever is the cause of the latest fiasco – and the government insists there has been no hack – it instils little confidence that the wider modernisation programme is anything but another ill-fated IT project.
Moreover, it seems justice has fallen under the radar once again, with the media almost wholly indifferent to a systems failure affecting thousands of people.
Just imagine the furore if NHS phone lines were down for any length of time? If the border patrol computer system was on the blink? If the DWP email system was denying people access to benefits?
Each would provoke a stampede of journalists happy to pick the low-hanging fruit of a government IT cock-up.
For now, this is a glitch in the system (albeit one that is immensely frustrating for those concerned). The big concern is that £1bn of taxpayers’ money is being spent on the wider upgrade. The sceptics who suspect the money won’t be spent well have just become rather more numerous, one suspects.