Headlines: August 7th, 2001

Recent reforms in the way that lawyers and litigants deal with the civil courts have not been matched by reforms of the IT systems used by the Courts Service. A Judicial Working Group has found problems of missing and chaotic files, parties attending for hearings which are not listed and problems aggravated by a large number of different and incompatible systems for processing cases. Two of the more recently installed systems are
failing to meet the needs of the judiciary and it is not possible to transfer data between them and the judiciary computers.

The Working Group has recommended a single cross-jurisdictional information systems approach. An electronic case record is at the heart of their proposals. It would record events throughout the life of a case and interface with an electronic file containing information about the specific cases. There would also be links to case management systems and to an electronic diary which would replace the paper-based diary systems currently used to keep records of hearings. The diary would also be linked to court case management systems and be accessible by court users to provide an alternative way of checking on the progress of a case.

The original provision of 43m pounds for replacement of existing systems has now been increased by a further 17.9m pounds from the Treasury’s Capital Modernisation Fund. The proposed electronic diary system will cost 4.4m pounds.