A single integrated case management system will replace the mixture of IT in England and Wales' courts under a modernisation plan announced today. Under the programme, HM Courts and Tribunals Service is to receive up to £75m a year over five years to modernise. The one-off investment is expected to save more than £100 million per year by 2019/20. One aim is to reduce the need to attend court in person.
IT plays a central role in the modernisation. The announcement noted that today 'very little is available through digital channels and the taxpayer continues to bear the escalating financial costs associated with manual systems.' Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, said the new investment 'will help cement our system as one of the best in the world, ensure the sustainability of the system and deliver value for money for hardworking taxpayers. More importantly, it will ensure that the experience of victims and witnesses is as comfortable and pain free as possible, with an efficient service for those who need access to our courts and tribunals'.
Planned reforms include:
- Integrated technology to introduce more digital working and to speed up processes. 'The current range of outdated computer systems will be replaced with a single integrated system which would allow electronic case management. This will enable judiciary, staff and justice agencies to work on one IT system rather than using antiquated, paper based processes.'
- An online self-service system, which will allow lawyers and other users to complete court and tribunal forms and make payments digitally for court fees or to initiate claims for debt repayment, personal injury or housing disputes, reducing the reliance on manual entry. There will also be an increased use of videolinks, digital presentation of documentation in court and Wi-Fi for legal practitioners.
- A widespread modernisation of the courts estate to make better use of the service's 500 buildings, to improve facilities and reduce costs -- for example by enabling hearings from different jurisdictions to now occur in the same building.
Once more services are made available online, users and the legal profession should only need to attend a court or tribunal when it is absolutely necessary, the announcement said.