(Originally published on 28 April 2014)
That old adage that a bad workman blames his tools is often delivered with some asperity – and yet, as anyone who has ever tried to assemble an Ikea Billy bookcase with the wrong gauge Allen key can testify, the wrong tools for the job will result in nothing but frustration (and perhaps a splinter or two).
It is worth bearing this in mind when reading the findings of the recent investigation by Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate. Looking into the quality of CPS work in London’s magistrates’ courts, the report found that despite a decline in caseload only a third of cases reaching trial are well-handled.
The remaining two-thirds of cases are suffering, so the report says, as a result of deep budget cuts: too many cases, too little time, and – here’s the rub – the wrong tools.
Chief Inspector Michael Fuller is clear on the seriousness of the findings, which indicate a serious problem affecting members of the public who have placed their trust in the legal system only to find their case is poorly handled, and cannot result in a just outcome. He says, “Hundreds of magistrates courts cases may not grab the headlines – but most have victims, and to them the outcome really matters. More has to be done to achieve efficiency savings through digitisation, to stop cases at an early stage that cannot succeed.”
This emphasis on digitisation is striking – and heartening for those of us who have long championed the need for lawyers to embrace tech innovations if they are to keep pace with the demands of twenty-first century legal practice. The use of eDiscovery to examine, redact and catalogue large amounts of evidence in all its formats, and eDisclosure tools to increase efficiency and accuracy, can do much to relieve pressure on the undoubtedly over-pressed prosecution lawyer.
With the report indicating that the cost of overtime payments is proving punitive, it is clear that making a more effective digitisation strategy may assist the CPS with providing a more efficient and streamlined service – ultimately, to the public good.
Those keen to ensure they’re equipped with the best, latest and most innovative tools for their legal job should work alongside litigation support professionals such as Legastat. After all, there is a great deal more at stake than a bruised thumb, and a wonky shelf.