Courts system rolls on out

Any delays to the Department for Courts' controversial Case Management System were caused by legislative changes or motivated by the desire to take a prudent approach to development and testing, says the department.

Any delays to the Department for Courts’ controversial Case Management System were caused by legislative changes or motivated by the desire to take a “prudent, careful, common sense, ‘belt and braces’ approach” to development and testing, says the department.

“The only challenges faced by the developers were those common to large and complex systems,” Courts says, in a statement through communications staffer Donna Kieboom.

“There were no changes of direction or priority during the development process.”

CMS has been implemented in all 62 civil courts and some family and criminal courts. A further stage in what Courts calls “the criminal rollout” was planned for September 1. The final stage of criminal-court implementation is set for October 6 and all courts are scheduled to be on the new system by November.

Courts specifically denies a report that the system was first developed using PowerBuilder then switched to Java. The system was developed using Java, incorporating Weblogic and Oracle, its statement says. CMS is browser-based with an Oracle database that includes case information for all jurisdictions.

The department suggests users are pleased with the new system, but refused Computerworld’s request for direct interviews with end users or development staff. Instead the department provided, by email, prepared one-line statements from users, which stressed the increased speed and ease of use that CMS has brought.

The complexity of the project increased with the passing of the Sentencing and Parole Acts, Courts says. “They required the introduction of new sentences and the ending of existing sentences for other than historical or reporting purposes. They also required changes to the interfaces with Police, Corrections and Collections, and various new document templates to cover the new sentences.

“During first use of the system in two pilot courts, it was clear that a ‘big bang’ rollout would stretch project support personnel and resources. It was decided to move to a staged rollout to ensure robust support was available to each court as it went ‘live’ on CMS. Refining functionality, including interfaces to improve user and system effectiveness, identified in user testing, and the move to a staged rollout meant that the project would take longer than originally envisaged.

“With change of this magnitude, the department is deliberately taking a prudent, careful, common sense, ‘belt and braces’ approach. Put plainly, the department makes no apology for taking a cautious approach to change of this magnitude and for putting community safety to the forefront.”

The move to “active” case management is the principal change underlying Courts’ modernisation programme.

“[It] will reduce delays in the court system and provide a better, more timely and consistent service to court users,” says the department. Paper files are still the official record.

“The party filing the documents leaves the court knowing what happens next and who the case officer is. The case officer manages further intervention. The system monitors case progression, to ensure directions ordered by the judge have been complied with. If this has not happened it generates an alert so case officers can ensure parties are ready to proceed. This reduces delays in the hearing of cases.”

Court staff now update hearing results or decisions into CMS in real time. The system then generates the required documentation, such as warrants for imprisonment or bail bonds.

The court “taker” has access to the sitting schedules for all courts and can programme hearings for cases that are to be transferred.

CMS replaces the legacy LES (Law Enforcement System) for criminal matters and standalone databases for other jurisdictions. All applications, whatever the jurisdiction, are now entered into 3eCMS.

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