NAO Criticises Crown Courts For Outdated IT Systems

The National Audit Office has launched a stinging attack against the Her Majesty's Court Service (HMCS), in a report, after it found out that out to date computer systems are creating a backlog of criminal cases that is costing taxpayers millions.

Crown courts use a 20-year old case management IT system called CREST but software giant Oracle has stopped supporting the application on which CREST runs, essentially jeopardising the whole British court system.

The role of CREST is pivotal to the good running of courts as it performs a number of duties including the allocation of court time.

But the system is now so old that it frequently crashes and is not compatible with the Windows Operating system which is widely used across hundreds of computers within the HM Courts service.

This means that staff have often to perform duplicate tasks including typing in case details onto the system after having written it on paper, which fatally increases the number of mistakes and errors and could potentially wreck a court case.

The HM court has already spent more than £10 million to improve CREST's compatibility with Windows but as Richard Bacon MP, a member of the Committee of Public Accounts commented, let's hope that updating CREST "does not represent a false economy".

The replacement for CREST, XHIBIT, has had problems of its own after it was found that it "is not flexible enough to cope with changing court forms, and has suffered speed and stability problems".

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Our Comments

The situation at the HMCS reminds us of the NHS IT "Fiasco" that saw NHS staff having to face the same kind of problems. There's an untold rule somewhere saying that huge IT projects in UK are almost always way over budget (like the London Olympic Games) and terribly late.

Related Links

Courts at breaking point because of surge in cases and out of date computers

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Old IT hurting courts, says report

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Watchdog warning on court delays

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British courts' 20 year old IT system won't work on Windows

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Outdated IT system a risk to courts, says NAO report

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20-year-old tech poses "risk" to British justice

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