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.

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.

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