The Courts Service says that the introduction of remote hearings last year has strengthened the case for pressing ahead with plans to facilitate the electronic management of cases.
In its annual report, published earlier this week, the courts body says that virtual hearings led to an increase in administrative work linked to the scheduling, communications and management of case parties.
“The lack of integration of remote-hearing solutions with a modern case-management system resulted in an increased workload for Courts Service staff,” it says.
‘Less than satisfactory’
The courts body notes that, while there were remote hearings of cases, original documents for court still had to be filed physically in the High Court’s central office.
Travel and other restrictions meant that the Courts Service had to introduce an appointments system for personal callers, which was strictly limited to urgent business.
“We acknowledge that this situation was less than satisfactory for both court users and staff,” the report says.
It adds that the additional administrative burden associated with remote courts and new ways of working was “substantial”, in the absence of systems to facilitate easy communication with court users: “Work is progressing to lighten this administrative load in 2021,” the report says.
Data strategy planned
The report comments that the experience of 2020 has highlighted the need for “a coherent, end-to-end, digitally-enabled, case-management platform”.
The Courts Service notes, in particular, that the lack of a unified data model for case tracking posed challenges.
“It also highlighted the importance of data as both an operational and strategic asset to the organisation, and the challenges in this area will be used to inform the upcoming data strategy due to be published in 2021,” the report says.
The body is planning a strategic review of its desktop and core IT services this year, which will take into account the lessons learned from 2020.
“Modern collaboration and communications tools are an ongoing requirement of the judiciary and staff, along with the necessary supports,” the report says.