Courts aims to speed proceedings

Department of Courts case load manager Wayne Jackson's job has just become a whole lot easier with the introduction of a new case management system at the Christchurch District Court.

Department of Courts case load manager Wayne Jackson believes his job has just become a whole lot easier.

He and about a dozen other employees at the Christchurch District Court have begun using a new case management system.

The Datacom-developed system, which has gone live in Christchurch and is undergoing nationwide trials for 900 selected courts staff, is designed to improve the efficiency of court administration, replacing manual processes with automatic systems.

As documents are received from the court, they are immediately processed, with dates confirmed, courtrooms booked and a case manager assigned. Once the system is fully deployed all outcomes from proceedings will be recorded directly into case management.

Documentation, such as bail bonds, warrants and orders, will be produced immediately. Events in the life of a case, such as registration of documents and judicial directions, will be automatically flagged to case managers and followed up with parties to ensure they happen on time.

Jackson says the system will link criminal, civil and family court systems nationally, so one court can access details of other court's cases and help with the sceduling of cases, by speeding them up.

He says the system presents a new concept for his staff as they never had the use of a database before.

"We had some training and a great response from staff. On the first day, we were tentative about it; [we were] quicker on the second day and on the third day using it was second nature."

His staff feel a lot of work has gone into the system. "There's drop-down boxes for the judicial offences stuff. Everything is there at your fingertips."

The case management system is the last phase of a $32 million courts modernisation project. When announced two years ago, completion was expected in the middle of this year, but this now won't happen until late 2003.

Courts general manager Murray Short says the implemention has been "pretty complex because of the interfaces with other Justice department agencies; linking and getting the data right, to flow between these agencies".

Short says the department is "pretty risk-averse" so it decided to switch to a phased rollout of the case management system, which "added a layer of complexity" because it needed multiple data conversions and separate preparation of sites.

Written in Java, the system uses an Oracle database and an Internet Explorer front end. Microsoft middleware technology is used for document management and rostering and scheduling judges, courtrooms and cases.

It replaces the "Wanganui Computer" system, supplanting what Jackson calls its basic record of criminal cases with "richer data", thereby allowing the department to more actively move matters through the courts process rather than being passive.

The case management system will link to the fines collections system, Police's law enforcement system and the Corrections Department's integrated offender management system.

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