29 Jul Improved Court IT: The Ministry of Justice Investments
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is making the decision to invest up to £375m into a much-needed technology upgrade.
Aimed at reforming the technology in HM Courts & Tribunal’s 3,000 courtrooms across the UK, it will see the reforms over the next five years in line with a goal of saving more than £100m per year by 2020.
Minimising the Paper Trail
The MOJ has admitted that the current technology used in courtrooms is outdated and heavily reliant on paper.
As staff waste crucial time on data entry, costs increase and delays become inevitable. The public are also bound by the need to hand-write forms and visit courthouses or tribunals in person to lodge documents. Fees are paid by cheque.
All of this adds up to a huge expense for taxpayers. Moving forms and payment facilities to the digital realm and allowing some claims to be initiated online will make life easier for members of the public and legal professionals alike.
Integrating the IT Network
In a move that is guaranteed to bring things up to speed for the 21st century, the MOJ has pledged to integrate the complete computer network. This will allow for cases to be electronically managed across the board, removing the risk of valuable data being lost.
Submissions will also be stored centrally and available from mobile devices.
Perhaps one of the largest changes to the UK court and tribunal system will be the rollout of WiFi. This will allow for all courts and tribunals to be working digitally by 2016 and will even change the way people appear in court.
Defendants will be able to appear in prison-to-court video links for pre-trial hearings, while prosecutors and defence lawyers will be able to present cases from mobile phones. The digital presentation of legal documents will also make life easier.
Changes Already in Place
Birmingham has already seen the benefits of a completely digital court system and other ‘exemplar’ services have already been rolled out. These include the ability to make civil claims, pay employment tribunal fees, create a lasting power of attorney, and book a prison visit.
Given the sheer numbers of people in the UK who do one of these things every day, it’s easy to see how money and time will be saved. There are currently 25 exemplar services in action, with more to come on-board over the five-year transition period.
Maximising the Benefits of Buildings
Perhaps the biggest benefit to taxpayers will be the way buildings can be modernised as the IT rollout takes place. Hearings from different jurisdictions will now be able to take place in one building while victims and witnesses will be able to have their own waiting areas.
This is partially achievable due to the changes that the new IT infrastructure will allow, while other changes can be made by capitalising on necessary building changes.
Speeding up Hearings
One of the biggest changes the new IT network will see is the freeing up of courtrooms. This will allow hearings to proceed and reach a resolution faster, resulting in less people being tied up in a court process that currently suffers numerous delays.
This is of significant importance to families who are attempting to achieve resolution. As hearings proceed quicker and justice meted out in a timely manner, children won’t be subject to the emotional anguish of delayed and drawn out hearings.
Maintaining the UK’s Stellar Legal Reputation
Alongside the benefits to the UK taxpayer, HM Courts and Tribunals will be able to enjoy the stellar international reputation it has spent centuries building. This is likely to attract international businesses to use the UK’s court system, resulting in positive spin-offs to the UK legal system in particular and the economy in general.
The government is committed to ensuring the IT reform is of benefit to as many people as possible. A sustainable, future-proofed, efficient court and tribunals system will meet the needs of the public, businesses, and legal professionals, while saving taxpayers a lot of time and money.