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Top judge hails demise of legacy court IT

10/11/16

Case management systems Libra and Crest ‘will soon have stakes put through their hearts’ says judge charged with modernisation

The judge charged with computerising courts in England and Wales has spoken of his delight at the prospect of the current generation of case management systems having "stakes put through their hearts".

Lord Justice Fulford (pictured), senior presiding judge in England and Wales, is leading the programme to computerise the creaking civil and criminal courts system, which he described at “groaning under the weight of paper files”.

Delivering the Draper Memorial Lecture to University of Sussex alumni this week, Fulford said his fellow judges handling serious criminal cases in the Crown Court had already adopted the Microsoft Office based e-Judiciary system, running on laptops.

“Mostly, nearly entirely, they love it,” he said, glancing occasionally at the MacBook Air he carried to the lectern. “The change has been extraordinary.”

New kid on the block

The next phase in the £1 billion transforming justice programme will be the roll out of the Ministry of Justice’s Common Platform, an integrated data store and suite of services to allow data to be re-used across the Crown Prosecution Service and HM Courts and Tribunals Service - an ambition first floated in the 2003 Criminal Justice IT Programme. However, the current case management systems introduced under that programme, Libra and Crest ,“will soon have stakes put through their hearts by the new kid on the block called Common Platform,” Fulford said.

One goal of the transformation programme is to make it possible to conduct some categories of case, such as minor motoring offences, entirely online. Acknowledging that replacing physical hearings with digital processes poses a threat to open justice, Fulford said: “Justice must not disappear down an Alice-style rabbit hole.”

Viewing centres

To present the principle of open justice, he said "we will probably opt for viewing centres in public buildings, where members of the public can see what would be in open court". But he stressed "these are early days and we are looking for imaginative solutions".

In response to a question from a University of Sussex academic on whether decision-making algorithms in court systems should be based on open source rather than proprietary software, Fulford said: ‘So far that has not been on our agenda – but it will be after this evening.”

Photo: HMCTS

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