HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has put back completion of the court modernisation programme by a year to 2023, it announced yesterday.
“Learning from the services that we have already delivered and the feedback received, including from the public accounts committee and the National Audit Office (NAO), we have decided to re-order aspects of the programme,” it said.
“This will allow more time to develop some of the shared systems that sit behind our next set of online services, working to an updated finish date of 2023.”
Last May, the NAO warned that HMCTS was “behind where it expected to be at this stage” of the £1bn reforms, saying it faced a “daunting challenge” to deliver the scale of technological and cultural change necessary to modernise the justice system and achieve the required savings.
“The NAO believes there is a significant risk that HMCTS will not be able to achieve all it wants within the time available,” it said.
The watchdog noted that HMCTS had already lowered expectations that it would meet its original schedule – in 2016, it extended its timetable from four to six years, but still it had lagged.
MPs on the public accounts committee followed this up in July by expressing “little confidence” that the programme could be delivered.
But the Ministry of Justice said last month that the programme has realised £158m in “benefits” to date, more than was anticipated.
The HMCTS announcement listed the achievements of the programme to date, including the national implementation of a new in-court system to record the result of cases digitally and instantly, a pilot of a new digital system providing shared case information in criminal cases to the police, Crown Prosecution Service, courts and lawyers, and a civil money claims service with more than 51,000 claims made since it first launched in March 2018 and a user satisfaction rate of almost 90%.
Further, the online divorce service has received more than 31,000 applications made since it launched in April 2018, while there have been more than 12,000 personal applications using the online probate service since July 2018.
The statement said: “With the leadership of the government and the judiciary, the HMCTS reform programme is increasing the accessibility and efficiency of the justice system by shaping it around the needs of those who use it.”
The justice select committee recently opened an inquiry into the access to justice implications of the programme and is currently gathering evidence before holding hearings.
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