Poor data sharing is holding back the UK court system's pandemic recovery, says National Audit Office

Lack of data for planning also a problem, spending watchdog finds


The UK court system's failure to implement its own recommendations for improving data sharing is holding back its recovery from the pandemic, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The government spending watchdog has reported on progress in reducing the backlog in criminal courts, which stood at 60,692 in the Crown Court in June, a 48 per cent increase on March 2020, when the first UK's pandemic lockdown was introduced.

"The COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the work of the criminal justice system and necessitated extensive changes in criminal courts to keep judges, court staff, and users safe," the report said.

In fact, the Crown Court backlog increased by 23 per cent in the year leading up to the pandemic, the NAO said [PDF].

Since the onset of the pandemic, Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) recovery programme increased criminal court capacity by 30 per cent in the Crown Court and 7 per cent in magistrates' courts between September 2020 and July 2021.

However, long-standing limitations in collecting data make it difficult for the Ministry of Justice or the courts system to understand future demand, the report said.

In 2019, the HMCTS's own report, Digital Justice, set out wide-ranging findings on the extent of data limitations.

"HMCTS has yet to implement the recommendations in full. The pandemic has exacerbated these long-standing data challenges, bringing into focus the data the Ministry and HMCTS need to develop to better understand and manage flow through the system," the report said [PDF].

"The Ministry recognises that it will need substantial investment in analytical capability to resolve other data issues, including disjointed data across the system. It is aiming to publish, in autumn 2021, a new scorecard to make national performance more transparent," it added, calling for a robust strategy for "data collection, analysis and sharing" in the courts system.

"Urgent attention must be given to designing a medium-term solution for data sharing that reduces the burden on HMCTS," it said.

Alex Case, public sector industry principal at automation specialist Pegasystems, said: "The NAO report is sober reading. While more capacity is critical and MoJ has some innovative ideas for this, there needs to be total focus on how the backlog can be tackled through an overhaul of how the justice systems process cases and verdicts."

HMCTS is in the midst of a £1bn technology programme involving over 50 projects to improve court and tribunal services, bringing new technology and modern ways of working, according to documents published in 2018.

But the courts system has struggled with technology change. In 2019, a report from Parliament's spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, found that the reforms had been repeatedly pushed back without showing any cost savings.

An earlier NAO report criticised the troubled £280m Common Platform Programme, the digital case-handling system intended to join up the case management process across HMCTS, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the police, which had made less progress than anticipated. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

    Plus: A drug designed by machine learning algorithms to treat liver disease reaches human clinical trials and more

    In brief Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls.

    A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, was used to eavesdrop on prisoners’ phone calls.

    In a sales pitch, LEO’s CEO James Sexton told officials working for a jail in Cook County, Illinois, that one of its customers in Calhoun County, Alabama, uses the software to protect prisons from getting sued, according to an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Continue reading
  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021