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Criminal justice IT still offending, spending watchdog finds

07/03/14

The criminal justice system is still dogged by data-gathering "inefficiencies", Parliament's spending watchdog has warned.

Scales of Justice - License Copyright All rights reserved by paul_clarkeA report by the National Audit Office highlighted a series of ongoing weaknesses, including:

 * An inability to transfer data automatically between magistrates' courts and Crown Court - 10 years after they were brought together in the same service

 * The National Offender Management Service is still testing a new service to allow staff to arrange prison visits online.

 * The prisons case management system, P-Nomis, has "little capacity for holding and sharing information about the education and training that prisoners have undertaken".

 * Enforcing confiscation orders to seize the proceeds of crime is let down by "out-of-date ICT systems, data errors and poor joint working".

The NAO said the government had, last year, unveiled a two-year programme to "transform the criminal justice system", with a focus on new technology for sharing information.

But it concluded: "It is too early, however, to comment on whether they will be effective. There remains much to be done to tackle inefficiency and reduce the multiple points of failure within the system.

"Potential initiatives include replacing the manual transfer of data with well-designed digital transfers between agencies and developing a strategic approach to improving the collection rate of fines and confiscation orders, both to offset running costs and to demonstrate that crime does not pay."

The watchdog's report noted documents had to be copied and sent from the magistrates' court to the Crown Court "physically or by email".

Meanwhile, there was a need for a more efficient system for booking prison visits, with 1.5 million annual appointments expected, from next year.

The Ministry of Justice did have plans to tackle prisoner training by creating a National Careers Service, with a "complete, updated record of the offender's needs and skills, which would also be accessible after release from prison".

But, on confiscation orders, it warned: "There are also numerous data errors, particularly in inputting information after court hearings."

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