Court Store driving digital transformation within the Criminal Justice System

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

The overarching vision for the Criminal Justice System (CJS) in the UK is that it will be fully digital by 2020. This will enable new ways of working that will strip costs out of the system, improve efficiency and effectiveness, enable more joined-up working in justice, and provide better access for citizens.

Background

 The current ICT landscape of systems within HMCTS was designed and built around business processes and technologies that are at least 15 years old. The Criminal Justice System Common Platform (CJS CPP) and System Efficiency Programmes (CJS EP) are joint initiatives between the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to deliver IT-enabled business. 

Digital Transformation

Sopra Steria’s onsite integrated, co-located project team at HMCTS has been working in collaboration with HMCTS staff and other partners to deliver digital transformation within the Criminal Justice System via the HMCTS Court Store application: a new digital repository and document management system primarily for use within the Magistrates’ Courts. The principal objective of this project is to deliver a data store that is accessible from different devices and by individuals across the Criminal Justice System, and is capable of storing both structured and unstructured data. The Court Store project is crucial for HMCTS to be able to move away from the reliance on paper, and towards working digitally in the court room; in line with GDS principles the system is being delivered in an Agile way.

Solution

 Agile working is new to Whitehall and has involved a massive cultural shift. Sopra Steria has been supporting the client on their journey towards Agile, introducing them to this very different way of working, bringing innovative solutions and experience from other Agile deliveries.

As part of the Discovery phase Sopra Steria spent time with the product manager (a person from within the business who embodies the product or system being developed) and stakeholders e.g. visiting a courtroom and seeing the back office process to understand how those working within the system went about their daily tasks. There was a huge reliance on paper documents, all of which need to be filed, stored and later destroyed or archived, making the process costly, inefficient, difficult to manage and location-dependent. 

Professionals in the courtroom were often presented with printed information related to cases just prior to entering the courtroom, leaving them little time to act on it. Making this information available ahead of time digitally will massively increase efficiency and improve the service being delivered to victims, witnesses and others involved with the Criminal Justice System. 

Agile Delivery 

 Using the Agile sprint-based methodology Scrum enabled us to place the Product Manager at the heart of the decision-making process. Following an open, inclusive delivery approach enabled the creation and prioritisation of functionality in collaboration with the Customer Team (critically the Product Manager and Subject Matter Experts who came from the business side). Sopra Steria’s architects also worked closely with the CJS Efficiency and Common Platform programmes and Information Assurance bodies to meet the security and performance requirements and ensure architectural fit with the CJS Common Platform principles.

Focus on users

Putting in place a consistent and constant user feedback loop is key to a successful digital delivery: it enables the design to be flexible to ensure that user needs always remain at the heart of the development. For the initial (alpha) prototype the client wanted to demonstrate as much functional capability as possible in the new system in order to gather user feedback from court rooms around the country. Sopra Steria ran a number of usability GDS-compliant workshops to understand the way that users interact with the system in context, so that their feedback could be evaluated and then incorporated back into the build, as the system was being developed. 

Multi-Disciplinary Teams 

 This project required a truly flexible and integrated multi-disciplinary team with varied skill sets. The Sopra Steria team was very fluid throughout the lifecycle of the project, to ensure the right skills were always available and that the client got the best out of everyone involved in the project. Our experts were involved in different stages of the project in specific areas such as User Experience, Dev-ops, Architecture and Test Automation. The client also worked with other technology partners on this programme as “one team” and collaboration and partnership behaviours have been critical to the success of the project.

What has been delivered so far?

Sopra Steria has delivered HMCTS’s Court Store application. This new document management system was successfully rolled out nationally at the end of March 2016 and enables: 

  • Automated receipt of case paperwork from the CPS
  • Direct access to the documents relating to the case for the Legal Adviser
  • Documents to be shared with Bench members using tablet devices
  • Role-based access for other authorised Criminal Justice practitioners
  • Robust data housekeeping and archiving capability

Benefits so far

The new electronic document management system is already delivering benefits to CJS staff in the Early Adopter Areas including:

  • improved efficiency - with the automation of a number of in-court processes, the reduction of administrative overhead and the replacement of documents with a single data store
  • improved quality – greater transparency and accuracy provided by a single accurate view of information for all parties
  • a more modern workplace – via an easy-to-use digital system that is responsive to the business needs

Client view

"My belief is that success has been down to everybody’s contribution and the skills and knowledge of the team as a whole have enabled Court Store to be a great success. It has been my pleasure working alongside such a talented Sopra Steria Team and I have myself learnt so much along the way." Product Manager