Defence solicitors will have a lead role in the development of a new digital case management system, the Legal Aid Agency has promised, announcing that Liverpool is to pilot the Criminal Justice System Common Platform Programme.

The £30m platform is a joint initiative of HM Courts & Tribunals Service, the Crown Prosecution Service and judiciary to create a ‘unified’ system to help digital working for practitioners, from the investigation of cases through to the sentencing and rehabilitation of offenders.

Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association chair Zoe Gascoyne, a partner at Liverpool firm Quinn Melville, said Liverpool had been chosen as a pilot area for successful schemes such as the Early Guilty Plea Scheme. ‘The common platform has been designed to transform the criminal justice system and many will be understandably apprehensive,’ she said.

‘Engagement in relation to this particular pilot scheme means that practitioners will genuinely get to have meaningful input. It is essential that practitioners do engage, as we are at the heart of the system and best placed to deal with any concerns we might have from the outset.’

A joint inspection report by HM Crown Prosecution Inspectorate and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, published earlier this month, found scepticism about the common platform programme. While it was recognised as ‘highly important’, when CPS and HMCTS staff were asked about it, the inspectors received ‘various opinions regarding what they believed it was’.

‘Various opinions were also expressed about whether the common platform would operate alongside current systems or replace them, and also if recent applications such as the Digital Case System would be retained as part of the common platform or replaced,’ the report, Delivering Justice in a Digital Age, continued.