Hundreds of millions 'wasted' on UK court digitisation scheme

'Agile' Common Platform Programme is 'vapourware', say insiders


Exclusive Hundreds of millions of pounds have been wasted on plans to digitise the criminal justice system due to the mismanagement of a key programme that has so far delivered little value to the taxpayer, according to multiple insiders.

The Common Platform Programme (CPP) was supposed to be complete by March 2019. However, a spokeswoman from HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said the programme will not be complete until 2020 at a revised cost of £270m.

The project began in 2014 with the intention of creating a unified platform across the criminal justice system to allow the Crown Prosecution Service and courts to more effectively manage cases. Programme director Loveday Ryder had described the project as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to modernise the criminal justice system.

But The Register understands that over the last 30 months, a series of independent and internal reviews have documented the programme's failings, with all the key milestones having been missed.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), which monitors large programmes across government, recently flagged the programme as an amber-red risk, according to sources. That means delivery on time and on budget is unlikely. An internal review last year described the culture within the programme as "toxic".

Yet huge amounts of cash have continued to be signed off, despite sources claiming only one meaningful service has so far been delivered: an online self-service system for magistrates to manage their sittings.

One crucial component of the system, an identity access management system to allow professionals to log on and view cases remotely, has yet to be delivered despite £40m having been spent on it. Without that portal, users will be unable to access cases online – the main purpose of the project.

Sources say the programme has been overly focused on building the platform in house, rather than buying off-the-shelf software. They describe what has been produced so far as "vapourware".

Particular scorn has been directed at the so-called "agile experts" who have been in charge of managing the programme. "There is no plan, no artefacts, no direction, just constant excuses," said one insider. "How they can still be in place as well as still being allowed to recruit 'experts' with absolutely no delivery after 30 months is scandalous."

Multiple sources have also questioned the potential conflict of interest in members of the management board also owning companies to have contractors working on the programme.

"The continued waste on trying to deliver this programme is outrageous," said one insider, who asked why the programme should be allowed to continue in its current form – or indeed at all.

The CPP is part of a broader £1bn programme across the Ministry of Justice to make courts fully digital. That has already been identified by chief exec of the civil service John Manzoni as one of the biggest projects keeping him awake at night. Those concerns have also been echoed by Public Accounts Committee head Meg Hillier.

Live services so far include: an online make a plea programme which allows people to plead guilty or not guilty to traffic offences; a digital markup tool for legal advisors to record case results in court, which is being tested by magistrates courts in Essex; and the Magistrates Rota.

The Register understands that since then the project has failed to progress further. One insider said that if the programme were following proper agile principles, by this stage there ought to be at least a dozen meaningful services available across the criminal justice system.

Last year the IPA also gave the project an amber/red rating, based on assessment in September 2015. It said this reflected the "complexity of the programme and the innovative use of agile development principles".

The Register asked the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS why so much cash has been spent; what actions it intends to take to address the serious governance problems raised; and why money continued to be signed off on a programme that has so far failed to deliver.

In a boiler plate response, an HMCTS spokeswoman said: "The Common Platform Programme is a partnership between HMCTS, the Crown Prosecution Service and police and has strong support from the judiciary.

"It provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design and build a fully connected criminal courtroom by 2020.

"This will enable practitioners to access and share relevant criminal case management information and make the best use of technology such as video links to improve the experience for victims and witnesses." ®


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022