Wednesday, April 13, 2016

No, I'm Not Surprised Either

Thanks to The Times for this (don't worry Rupert, I pay a full sub)

Criminal court tech reforms 'a disaster'

Reforms to move paper-based criminal courts into the digital age have been beset by failings with lost computer discs, systems that "do not talk to each other" and "numerous mistakes", inspectors have found.
Their damning report finds that despite the multimillion-pound programme to modernise the courts, many still heavily rely on paper and manual processes such as scanning documents and producing hard copy of digital images.
This is to compensate for the "lack of a wholly intuitive digital capability", the inspectors say, a situation that causes wasted costs, increased risk of error and undermines the benefits that could come from full digital working.
More than 90 per cent of criminal cases are sent to the Crown Prosecution Service from the police electronically but there is a "high level of user input and processes to make paper documents electronic", the report finds. "This is not wholly digital working or an efficient process for transferring case information from the police to the courts."
Despite previous recommendations by inspectors that a reliable data-sharing solution is needed for CCTV, 999 records and interviews of suspects and others, it is a "disappointment", inspectors say, "to find this has yet to be established".
As a result, computer discs containing evidence still have to be physically sent to the CPS and many are lost, they say. "It was of concern to learn that a widespread issue existed, concerning the misplacing of discs by the CPS."
Other problems include a limit on the size of data that can be transferred across the system, "having a negative impact on the transfer of police data to the CPS".
There is difficulty in sending papers digitally to defence representatives. "Commonly the CPS prints off a paper copy for the defence representatives and sends this via courier to the court." The transfer of case evidence between police and the CPS "still suffers from numerous clerical mistakes".


  1. Sigh. Why are all big government IT projects so hopeless?

    1. Because, from my own experience, the people who produce the requirements for the system (ie what it has to be able to do) are too far from the coal face to know what is really required and technically incompetent, so that they have no idea if what they want is feasible or not.

    2. It is one of the big mysteries of governments that their health service, social services and it seems criminal justice IT projects fail so spectacularly and yet they can intercept every email on the planet and target a Reaper drone onto an ISIS beheader from the other side of the world.

    3. A little example from my local government job. My department works closely with two others and the main call centre. All of us have different 'main programmes' as they are designed for different purposes. The CC and one other dept. can use ours, some of us have access to the 3rd dept's, I have access to everyone else's 'cos I'm good with IT and I told the relevant other managers years ago that it would be easier to give me a licence than constantly bug their staff with queries.

      My dept's main system got upgraded a couple of years ago. (It's a bought-in programme). *Everyone* who knew the old programme still hates the new interface. It makes a few things easier but most things more difficult. But it's been in place for nearly 20 years so shifting all that historical data onto something else isn't an easy option.

      On the other hand, one of the other depts. only got theirs about 5 years ago. A lot of it was still on paper, e.g. forms signed by residents. Due to cost-saving our on-site storage unit was closed and everything got shipped off 200 miles away. The new company was supposed to scan everything and add it to the record but none or very little of that ever happened.

  2. Even as Magistrates'Courts are adopting the electronic model with Ipads in all courts ) a colleague asked a very pertinent question. If all the paperwork is to be supplied electronically, what happens when a case is appealed to the Crown Court where the judges (as far as I am aware) have not yet had the system fully rolled out if at all. "Good point" said our DJC - "no ones thought of that..."

    I also can't see Hizzoner (or Heronner) standing for the rigmarole of signing one out from the 'secure cabinets' in which they're housed each morning which involves getting a code for the key locker and then unlocking the cabinet (but only if others are present since it must not be left unlocked if no one is there) signing out the relevant pad, (woe betide you if you pick the wrong pad for the wrong court) relocking the cabinet, putting the key back in the key just goes on. Oh, and on a recent visit to court all the pads had no charge in them because the cleaners had unplugged the cabinet for safety reasons!!

  3. It wasn't me, honest14 April 2016 at 11:14

    Why does the expression "No Sh!t, Sherlock" spring to mind....

  4. And what happens in the crown court when it comes to sentencing, which is an issue on which judges are appreciative of having us as their wingers as we deal with appeal case issues on a daily basis, and they admit they don't. Any tablets for us there with the fully up to date guidelines? No of course not.

    I asked what happens when I visit another court in my LJA, or a court in a 'foreign' LJA, for a mentored observation with a new mentee. If there are no more books will we get a tablet so the mentee can be shown how to get to what they need in the sentencing guideline? The answer was no.

  5. Indeed - which is why most of us I suspect will retain our own pads with the excellent Ambay Sentencing G'lines which I'm sure WILL be kept up to date as now. Of course it is ridiculous that we will now be taking 2 pads into court but frankly that is the only sensible solution given the MoJ failed to use the tool that was already there for them to licence. There is no answer either as to what happens when the WiFi goes down either as the 'official' pads depend on a wifi signal to download the vastly inferior version.

  6. Although I'm retired now, I still get our Bench N@ews, and the instructions for how to use this technology need a degree in IT to understand. Thank goodness I don't have to deal with it, and how my heart goes out to those who do. When one 'signs up' to be a magistrate these days, does one have to convince the powers-that-be that one is technologically competent?

    The magistracy is supposed to reflect the make-up of the population in their judicial area, some of whom may well be perfect all-round personalities but technologically ignorant. It's not in the 'job description' that you have to understand IT gobbledegook. Would someone be dismissed if they refused to take it on board?

    1. I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but it's the 21st century.

      Modern technology is here to stay. You can either come up to date or join the Luddites from the 19th century.

    2. it is very possible that a BTDC in considering competance as a JP may well consider that failure to get to grips with the technology is at least a 'training need' and at worse an issue that goes to whether the appraisee is competant.

  7. "There is difficulty in sending papers digitally to defence representatives". Someone needs to invent such a system, and call it, oh I don't know, email attachments?

  8. Not sure 'disaster' is very fair.

    Considering the volume of material, the number of sources of that material (police; experts; other witnesses; CPS; counsel), the need for those receiving it to be able to communicate with those providing it, the number of different routes that material may need to take depending on the nature of the offence, the number of different people that material needs to be provided to (CPS; expert witnesses; counsel; defence; court; probation; witness care) and the different content permutations and security arrangements required for each, the task is vastly more complex than it may initially appear.

    Furthermore, each of the separate parts of the system developed its own electronic systems at a time when an integrated system was not even a remote possibility, in some cases adapting systems originally developed for wholly different purposes.

    Given that finances do not appear to have been avialable to convert all parts of the criminal justice system at the same time, it was inevitable that there would be a lengthy conversion period, with new problems and challenges becoming apparent as an increasing number of participants converted.

    This is possibly the biggest practical change in the way the legal system works since the ducking stool and trial by combat went out of fashion: one suspects there were problems and delays then too.

    At least this conversion has not led to unemployment and riots, unlike that instigated by the proprietor of The Times in the 80s. That could rightly have been described as a 'disaster' for some.

  9. In a digital age where phones, wi-fi and the broadband internet are now connecting 96% of the Western world, and home networks can be configured by your average 15 year old, you have to simply stand back and marvel at an organisation which is unable to share data within it's own structure.

    It's amazing. A modern day marvel.

  10. The other trouble is that government departments seem to avoid anything standard like the plague. If all electronic documents were PDF and transmitted via email there wouldn't be any problems. The snag is that said governments will insist on gilding the lily by (for example) insisting that everything is "secure".

    They won't face up to the fact that the more "special" you make things, the less likely they are to talk to each other.


  11. Ex-everything.
    It’s not just the court system: I was awestruck by the awful IT in the Police. The existing crime recording database was clunky, slow, non intuitive and hard to use. It did not allow for easy extraction of useful data, and did not even do basic database functions, such as allow key data (e.g. a consolidated list of names of witnesses to be seen) to be printed. None of the systems talked to each other. And the communication between the Police and other agencies was non-existent or awful too.
    And much of Police work could have been improved by good IT as there is an incredible amount of repetition in the data handled, which computers excel in. I used to daydream about a car based computer which could display suspect’s photos, which was linked to a GPS that was updated with locations as tasks were handed out by the control room. I used to salivate at the thought of a system which would allow you to access useful data when you went to an address. Sometimes multiple copies of forms, say domestic abuse tracking, would be ‘needed’ at an address several times in one week (or even day). Imagine if a PDA was linked to the car, and allowed you to go through and confirm or amend the data already on the system. Imagine if that PDA allowed you to type statements, and the witness thumb printed them. You could take pictures with the PDA for the crime report. You could check previous reports. You could build a decent picture of that person and their history, or lack thereof. What dreamed of spires of technology.
    In part the Police were to blame, as the training was, like much of the training throughout, not designed for you to do your job, but designed for, well, I’m not too sure. However the greatest bugbear, I am sure, was the lack of funding, which precluded the huge cost of designing, implementing and buying a truly useful, or even great, IT system. I’m sure it’s the same in the Fiscal’s department too.

  12. I recently applied online for an EHIC and it arrived four days later, correct in every particular.

    And last year my Boris card turned into a Freedom Pass bang on time.

    I'm suspicious. What's the catch?


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