The long drawn out process of computerising the justice system has suffered a new blow with the postponement of national implementation of electronic communications between lawyers and the agency responsible for legal aid in England and Wales.
The Legal Aid Agency's client and cost management system (CCMS) had been due to go live nationally today (20 January). However the agency admitted last week that rollout would be "deferred" while it dealt with problems thrown up by pilot trials.
According to the Law Society Gazette, the main problem was the lack of audit trail, giving law firms no way of seeing what claims they had submitted to the agency.
It quotes the agency as saying: "We have made much progress with the new system and continue to see large numbers of applications and bills being submitted and processed electronically. However, it is right to take some additional time now to deliver further technical improvements, identified during the system's pilot phase, before we introduce the system to a much larger number of users."
National rollout will begin 'as soon as possible' but said no date had been set.
It is the latest blow to the government's ambitions to cut costs and speed up justice by computerising both civil and criminal courts.
Last month, a review of the Chancery Division of the High Court, which handles document-heavy litigation such as patent disputes, concluded that an almost complete lack of IT is making modernisation and reform "simply unachievable". Lord Justice Briggs found that, despite its workload of complex civil cases, "the Chancery Division it is the most poorly served of any court or tribunal in the United Kingdom by IT".
For example all document-filing is on paper rather than electronic, and in London there are no computerised diaries for judges "still less software upon which they could satisfactorily be constructed".