12 November 2021

PCS to ballot HMCTS members over Common Platform

PCS is to hold a consultative ballot to ask members if they agree to support the PCS demands in respect of digital case management system the Common Platform.  The ballot opens on Monday (15).

We have called on HMCTS to take urgent action to ensure the health, safety and welfare of members is protected and that the administration of justice is not adversely impacted by Common Platform by demanding its immediate suspension in all courts.

This call comes in response to an alarming increase in reports from court takers of stress and anxiety, working longs hours and continued problems with the performance and accuracy arising from Common Platform. We have made clear to HMCTS that the continued use of the system is putting members at unacceptable risk and it is inappropriate to suggest that individuals need to be more resilient.

HMCTS has not undertaken an organisational risk assessment on the Common Platform despite their legal obligation to do so. PCS strongly believes that this is because the risks identified would evidence the fact that the use of the Common Platform is unsustainable.

Who is being balloted and why?

PCS has decided initially to consult with and ballot its legal adviser criminal court takers and its court associates. This is a deliberate decision and part of a multifaceted strategy that we are pursuing.  It is not because we do not recognise the significant negative impacts that the Common Platform is having on all members who work in the criminal jurisdiction. The reasons include:

  • All criminal cases start in the magistrates' court; 98% of cases are concluded there.
  • The magistrates’ court has a backlog but it is much smaller than that in the crown court where the offences are more serious and more complex
  • There is an inevitable delay between those cases that are sent or committed to the crown court and first hearing in the magistrates’ court and the volume in terms of numbers of cases in a magistrates’ court list is by its nature greater than in the crown court
  • PCS has longstanding policy that legal advisers should not 'result' cases. It is fundamentally incompatible with their other duties. Resulting by court associates is  incompatible with the sheer volume of remand work that district judges (magistrates’ courts) have in their lists
  • The above factors are leading to longer and more protracted exposure to the health and safety risks presented by the Common Platform
  • Stopping the use of Common Platform  in the magistrates’ court inevitably means cases cannot be sent or committed to the crown court using the Common Platform.

PCS is encouraging members to vote yes to support our demands:

  • No new cases input on to Common Platform
  • Cases on the Common Platform to be resulted outside of the courtroom
  • Undertake an organisational risk assessment for the Common Platform in consultation with PCS
  • HMCTS undertakes a stress survey of all Common Platform users to assess the level of risk
  • Make suitable and sufficient resources available to support individual risk assessments
  • Undertake an equality impact analysis on potential impacts of the Common Platform on its HMCTS users
  • Disclose the feedback from early adopter sites and sites where the Common Platform has been rolled out and provide full details of actions taken to address the concerns raised about the flaws in the design functionality
  • Disclose the numbers and details of incidents where incorrect results or issues arising from the incorrect production or non-production of orders have impacted on other criminal justice stakeholders
  • That HMCTS ensure there are no further job losses arising from the Common Platform.