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Courts' 20 year old IT system

The British courts' 20-year-old IT system fails to work on Microsoft Windows MPs have warned. Two years ago Oracle stopped supporting the platform CREST sits on.

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.

The National Audit Office said in its 'Administration of the Crown Court' report; CREST, the case management system, is bringing operational risks because of the lack of support. It does not work properly on the Microsoft Windows operating system used on many PCs in HM Courts Service and it is not linked centrally between courts.

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.

There is risk of error and duplication because data still has to be entered manually by case administrators into CREST, when cases are moved from magistrates into crown courts or when they move between crown court locations.

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