A JUDGE sitting at Carlisle has slammed a costly new IT system used nationally to manage criminal court cases, calling it 'rubbish'.

Common Platform was implemented at a cost of around £300 million to replace 'whole networks' of outdated software.

The aim is to boost efficiency by creating a single system used by judges, lawyers, the Crown Prosecution Service, legal advisors and office employees.

Rolled out in 2020, it was paused last July by HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) as improvements were made in response to staff feedback.

It is currently live in 143 courts nationwide — almost two-thirds — including crown and magistrates’ centres at Carlisle, Workington and Barrow.

Common Platform is seen by HMCTS as a 'fundamental' part of a major reform programme, and 'essential' if efficiency of the criminal justice system overall can be successfully increased.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union representing court staff had voted for strike action over what it called a 'fundamentally flawed' system.

One legal advisor has told the BBC how he entered a driving ban on to the Common Platform system — only to later learn the result had changed.

He said it was 'scary' as a banned driver could have been out on the road; and likened it to the Post Office IT scandal which saw more than 700 branch managers receive criminal convictions amid faults in a software system called Horizon.

“You feel so helpless because you report it and nobody wants to know,” he said.

And the Common Platform system was criticised by Judge Simon Medland KC at Carlisle Crown Court.

As the case of a prolific burglar neared sentence, Judge Medland with a legal advisor and counsel spent almost half an hour trying to clarify how elements of the case had been sent by magistrates to the crown court through Common Platform.

Amid confusion, it emerged one of the 10 charges he admitted had been transferred incorrectly and meant the crook had to enter his guilty plea a second time.

It prompted an exasperated Judge Medland to say: “If I were to pick one word that applies to far, it would be ‘rubbish’.”

Aware the system had been criticised by others, the judge added: “It makes it so much more complicated than it need be. I’m sure the intention behind it is good. I’m sure it will have some positive benefits. Just right now it seems to cause much more trouble than it’s worth.

“I hope those high up in the courts service who are charged with looking at things can have a think and find some work-arounds.”

The HMCTS says it has 'engaged extensively' with the PCS on Common Platform and was “committed to continuing discussions with them during the weeks and months ahead as the system is delivered”.

A spokesman said: “Common Platform is fundamental to modernising the court system — replacing out-of-date systems and freeing up court staff for other vital work.

“It has already successfully managed over 158,000 criminal cases and we want to thank all the judges, court staff and others who contributed to its design as we continue to support them through this transition.”