19 January 2022

Common Platform must be suspended in HMCTS

PCS has joined other justice unions and legal organisations to write to HMCTS. 

In a letter to Kevin Sadler, acting chief executive officer at HMCTS, Mark Serwotka who was a signatory, highlighted severe problems with the digital case management system, Common Platform.

"The Common Platform (CP) was intended to act as a shared interface between all Criminal Justice Process users where ‘start to finish’ details of a case could be entered, recorded and accessed by each agency," the letter states.

"However, feedback from members of our respective organisations clearly indicate that the system consistently fails to operate as intended.

"We the undersigned require an immediate suspension of the Common Platform, due to escalating concerns about the adverse impact of the delivery of justice and the increasing negative impact on the health, safety and wellbeing of those using the CP."

Common Platform was meant to be a shared interface between different aspects of the justice system where ‘start to finish’ details of a case could be entered, recorded and accessed by each agency.

The letter highlights a case backlog of up to 72,000 cases in the Crown Court by 2024, which comes from the Ministry of Justice's own predictions. 

"We are of the view that the design flaws in the CP are likely to exacerbate rather than to reduce that backlog. At present, many of us are using alternative means to engage with the Court, where possible," the letter states.

"Those who have sought to use the CP have found it cumbersome, slow and unreliable. 

"Delays are already being experienced by individuals and organisations who prosecute and defend with workarounds having frequently to be deployed to address a system failing."

The Prison Officer's Association which was also a signatory made the point that "delays result in a potential extension of prisoner remand time, that in turn can manifest itself in prison safety and stability issues, these issues must then be dealt with by our hard-working members."

In conclusion, the letter warns: "A failure to do so may result in political, legal and potential industrial responses from some of the signatory organisations to this statement."

The signatories to the letter are:

Mark Serwotka - PCS general secretary 

Jo Sidhu QC, Chair, The Criminal Bar Association (CBA)

Daniel Bonich, Chair of The Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA) 

Hesham Puri, President, The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA)

Alan Williams, Vice Chair, The Solicitors’ Association of Higher Courts Advocates (SAHCA) (Criminal Advocates Section)

Siobhan Foreman, Vice Chair, National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) and Family Courts

Andy Baxter, Assistant General Secretary, Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers (POA)