Completion of court modernisation programme delayed yet again

Goodwin: Significant progress made

The court modernisation programme – which was originally meant to have concluded in 2020 – has been extended once more, with elements of it ditched as well.

The end of the programme has been delayed another year to March 2025, with implementation continuing thereafter, while planned developments of the Common Platform, the digital case management system for the criminal courts, will now not go ahead.

The announcement by Nick Goodwin, chief executive of HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), was light on detail, which he said would be published in the coming weeks.

What was initially in 2016 a four-year project was soon extended to six years, and in 2019 completion was pushed back another year to 2023. Last March, it was delayed again to March 2024.

In June 2023, the House of Commons’ public accounts committee reported that HMCTS had “burned through” almost all of the budget for the programme with almost half of it incomplete.

It expressed serious concern that HMCTS was “once again” behind on delivering the reforms, saying that “the long history of resets, revisions and delays” has largely been due to HMCTS’s “consistent underestimation of the scale and complexity of these reforms”.

The committee also found that HMCTS still did not understand the impact of the programme or whether it had delivered value for money.

Writing on the HMCTS blog, Mr Goodwin insisted that it had made “significant progress towards the vision for reform we set out in 2016”, with 14 services “successfully modernised”. It has received over 2.4m digital applications since 2019, with “high” satisfaction scores from users.

“We’ve installed video technology to the majority of courtrooms, improved the user experience by creating five new service centres and introduced Common Platform to all criminal courts so that case information can be managed and shared more effectively.”

The extra year would enable HMCTS to deliver the final phase of the reform programme “and fulfil its original vision”.

He continued: “To ease the pressure on the business and to ensure continued success, we are extending the overall programme to March 2025.

“And to ensure the stability we need, we’ll no longer deliver some parts of it as we had planned. This will allow us to get the current systems and processes to perform to their maximum capacity and ability before adding more.

“We also need to spend more time making sure that our processes and ways of working align fully with the technological change. We cannot do one without the other and we have seen the consequences of getting this wrong in the past.”

Mr Goodwin said the move had the support of Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk, the Lady Chief Justice, Baroness Carr, and the Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Keith Lindblom.

Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: “HMCTS is making sensible decisions about prioritising work given the dual challenges of delivering the court reform programme and tackling the huge court backlogs.”

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