More than 30 criminals let out without tags due to IT blunders, report reveals

Tens of prisoners have been let out without tags due to IT blunders, a report reveals today.

Some 35 criminals should have been fitted with tags but were left to roam free in September last year.

System failures impacted approximately 3,000 cases at HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

The National Audit Office report blamed the “common platform” – a new digital case management system – which it said “is unpopular with staff, causing stress and sometimes interfering with the smooth running of live court cases”.

It accused HMCTS of having “not completed robust technical testing” before rolling the system out nationally.

Some 35 people did not get a tag when they were supposed to
Alamy Stock Photo)

“Introducing the new platform before it was ready created extra burdens for courts when they were already under pressure,” the NAO added.

The report, which was assessing a £1.3billion court reform programme, concluded that a “focus on delivering reforms quickly” has had a negative impact.

The NAO said that despite increasing the programme’s budget by around 10% in 2021, HMCTS does not expect to be able to deliver the programme to its current timetable and full scope.

Some reforms have made progress, however, including the rollout of video hearings and more online services.

Shadow Justice Minister Alex Cunningham said: “The Conservatives are missing in action in the fight against crime.

“Their court reforms are in tatters creating a huge burden on staff at a time when they face the largest backlog on record. With significant delays and over budget, IT glitches mean dangerous criminals roaming the streets without electronic tags.

Labour is the party of law and order. We would fix this mess, speed up justice and avoid catastrophic errors that lead to dangerous criminals going unmonitored. That’s how we will prevent crime, punish criminals and protect communities.”

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “This has been a complex and challenging programme for HMCTS to deliver, not least due to the impact of the pandemic.

“While the programme has continued to make progress, the decision to roll out the common platform without sufficient assurance has put avoidable pressure on the courts at a critical time.

“As HMCTS develops plans to adjust the programme it is essential that it builds in sufficient time to learn as it goes and promptly address any performance concerns.

“It must also develop its approach to benefits realisation to secure value for money from the £1.3 billion of taxpayers’ money it has invested.”

The NAO is an independent body that helps parliament hold the Government to account by analysing public spending.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “We quickly fixed the error and no offences were reported by the 35 defendants who were temporarily untagged.”

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