MPs have warned that a twenty year old case management IT system being used by crown courts is in serious danger, two years after Oracle stopped supporting the software on which it runs.
The case management system, called CREST, is “bringing operational risks” because of the lack of support, and also because does not work properly on the Microsoft Windows operating system used on many PCs in HM Courts Service. Additionally, it is not linked centrally between courts, the National Audit Office said in its ‘Administration of the Crown Court’ report.
In 2008, when HM Courts recruited Logica as an IT supplier, a “stabilisation” programme for CREST was initiated. By March 2011, HM Courts aims to have made the system run on Microsoft Windows, a move that will allow the centralised networking of data between courts, the NAO said.
But data still has to be entered manually by case administrators into CREST, which stands for the Crown Court Electronic Support System, when cases are moved from magistrates courts into crown courts or when they move between crown court locations. This risked error and duplication, the NAO said.
HM Courts Services is spending £10.4 million on the efforts to make CREST work on Windows and to link data between courts. It chose not to find a replacement piece of software, because of the higher cost involved, the NAO said.
Richard Bacon MP, a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, which like the NAO audits government spending, said he hoped the expenditure to update CREST “does not represent a false economy”.
“It will be very disappointing if, come 2011, so much money has been spent on CREST that an ‘off-the-shelf’ replacement would actually have worked out cheaper,” he said.
Separately, a real time information system on trial progress, known as XHIBIT, os not flexible enough to cope with changing court forms, and has suffered “speed and stability problems”, the NAO said. The system was “generally well-regarded by staff”, but crashed during peak periods. Supplier Logica had attempted to improve the system, and said it had reduced the number of system crashes during busy periods.