UK courts chiefs have been warned they will fail to complete their digital courts revolution in time and on budget. The National Audit Office says HM Courts & Tribunals Services face a ‘daunting challenge’ in meeting targets for technological and cultural change.
The Ministry of Justice aims to reduce the number of physical court hearings, cut its workforce by roughly 50 per cent and introduce national centres to handle all centralised case management and administration. The six-year project is due to be completed in 2022, but there is a risk that HMCTS makes changes before it understand the system-wide effects, according to the report: 'HMCTS faces a daunting challenge in delivering the scale of technological and cultural change necessary to modernise the administration of justice, and achieve the savings required. It has responded to early concerns by extending the timetable and improving its governance and programme management. But there is a long way to go to achieve the planned transformation and overall HMCTS is behind where it expected to be at this stage.'
The NAO said the government has already extended the original completion date by two years with no change in the £1.2bn budget, and that HMCTS has made less progress than expected. By September 2017 it had fully completed 62 per cent of planned outcomes. Susan Acland-Hood, chief executive of HMCTS, said the report’s recommendations 'are already helping to strengthen the way we run the programme. We are confident, therefore, that the current six-year programme is on track to deliver the benefits promised on completion and, in doing so, help create a better, more straightforward, accessible and efficient justice system for all who use and need it.'