The troubled common platform courts IT system failed to send out hundreds of important notifications over the course of nearly a year – resulting in 35 individuals not being fitted with an electronic monitoring tag when they should have been, the public spending watchdog has revealed.

In a critical report on the progress of the £1.3 billion courts and tribunals reform programme, the National Audit Office said HMCTS's design of the digital case management system was ‘beset with problems’ and its implementation is having a detrimental impact on courts.

Last September, HMCTS paused rollout for two weeks after the system failed to send 3,011 notifications to partner agencies between June 2021 and August 2022. ‘It found this happened as the system could not cope with the volume of notifications,’ the report says.

‘HMCTS reviewed all 3,011 of these cases and investigated in more depth the 367 of these failures which it considered could have affected justice outcomes. It found that criminal justice processes were disrupted in 23% of these cases. For example, in 35 cases an individual was not fitted with an electronic monitoring tag when they should have been.’


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The report also reveals that between March and October 2022, HMCTS recorded 231 critical incidents affecting users nationally.

HMCTS initially stated that just four transactional processes would be needed to bridge gaps between common platform and legacy systems. By the end of October 2022, more than 200 transitional processes and 250 workarounds were registered.

Some users told the NAO of benefits, such as being able to view cases in both Crown and magistrates’ courts. ‘But court staff felt that while the system had improved since its introduction, issues had caused courts to become less efficient, increasing stress levels and raising quality concerns,’ the report says.

On the electronic tagging failures, HMCTS said no further offences were reported while defendants/offenders were untagged as a result of the incident. The agency also pointed out that the number of operational notifications that failed to send equated to 1% of all notifications during the period identified.

In a statement, a spokesperson for HMCTS said: ‘We are modernising our services and replacing out-of-date systems so they are fit for the 21st century and the digital services we have introduced have been used successfully over two million times. We are implementing the NAO’s recommendations – some of which are already in place - to improve our new digital services and will continue to listen and respond to feedback from court users as we roll them out further.’

The common platform project began in 2012 with the aim of reducing inefficiencies across the criminal justice system. However, it has been beset by problems to the extent that court staff have even gone on strike.

The government defended the system in parliament this week. Justice minister Mike Greer told MPs on Tuesday that ‘to describe the common platform as a disaster is simply untrue’.


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