Judicial system ‘jeopardized’ by Justice Department’s data-sharing project

An IT project rolled out by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to facilitate information sharing between courts, lawyers and the police has been accused of putting the justice system “at risk”.

The UK Courts’ Common Platform software system, a quarter of a billion pound project, has been rolled out over the past few years to provide a streamlined digital resource for legal professionals to access case information such as charges, evidence and results.

However, a report by the BBC’s Radio 4 File on 4 revealed that the project is now accused of unlawful detentions and causing wrongful arrests, as whistleblowers told the program that the system was faulty, dangerous and unfinished. .

The software has been rolled out to criminal courts in England and Wales despite lawyers reporting difficulties for months.

Liam Kotrie, barrister and principal at Mary Monson Solicitors, told the BBC: ‘It’s not a good reputation [so far]. I’m reasonably tech savvy, I know most regular programs better than most, and I struggle.

“Other people find it clunky or just can’t find the cases they need. There’s a lack of usability and there’s a lack of usability and it’s sadly closer to the latter.

Dr Natalie Byrom, research director at the Legal Education Foundation, said the common platform’s vision was “super ambitious” and that the idea of ​​collecting information more efficiently means “you can design better policies, you can identify where the problems are occurring and you can manage the system better”.

However, a whistleblower who works as a legal adviser told the program that it can take up to 45 minutes for a complicated case to be entered into the system.

They said that due to the complicated nature of the software, legal advisers can miss important information about a case before the courts and that “the consequences of not doing it right are actually quite serious”.

“You have to take it seriously. If we can’t trust our justice system, what can we trust? »

An anonymous clerk whistleblower told the program: “I had a case where the restraining order was removed from the system, it was there and somehow it was then removed from the system. system, as if it had never existed.

“It endangers the person it’s supposed to protect… You’re worried that someone will get hurt, down the line.”

Whistleblowers told the BBC they had been forced to keep hard copies of everything because the system was so “unreliable”.

A spokesperson for the HM Courts and Tribunals Service said: “The Common Platform is fundamental to modernizing the justice system – replacing outdated systems that are unsuitable and freeing up court staff for the work to which they can add the most value.

“We will continue to work closely with staff to support them through this transition and would like to thank all of the judges, court staff and others who helped design and implement it.”