The UK Courts’ main computer network has experienced repeated crashes over the last week. The problems have caused thousands of cases to be disrupted and delayed across England and Wales.
The issues affected The Common Platform programme, a shared system between the police, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service and the Crown Prosecution Service. This is after the MoJ invested £1.2bn in an upgrade programme (announced last June), which aimed at making the system more efficient by implementing modern technology.
The issues meant that the MoJ staff had no wireless connection and therefore were unable to send emails, enrol jurors or register barristers for attendance payments. It also meant the staff were unsure when defendants were due to appear in court and were unable to retrieve court documents, leading to prosecutions being adjourned.
The MoJ have denied that the disruption was due to a cyber-attack and insisted that there had been no loss of data.
Richard Atkins QC, the chair of the Bar Council:
“Whilst HMCTS is moving forward with its programme of online justice, these problems would suggest that more investment in the basics is needed first. We cannot have a justice system that comes to a shuddering halt the moment the IT does not work properly.”
Chris Henley QC, the chair of the Criminal Bar Association:
“Short-term savings often result in wider costs to the public purse and cause a broken criminal justice system to fall further apart. Crumbling court buildings are bad enough for court users – both the public and criminal practitioners – but digital failures can have far more profound consequences for all those awaiting trial.”
“Prolonged IT failures do a disservice to the victims of crime and their families who may have already suffered the costs of delays from an already overstretched, chronically underfunded, broken criminal justice system.”