HC Deb 21 March 1989 vol 149 cc540-1W
Mr. Harris

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has reached a decision on the recommendations in the Home Office research and planning unit report, "Evaluation of the Use of Computers in Magistrates Courts—The Way Forward."

Mr. Hurd

The report was issued for consultation to the magistrates courts service, other agencies within the criminal justice system and the suppliers of computer equipment in September 1987. Very careful consideration has been given to the responses received.

There was substantial support for recommendations in the report which proposed that the Home Office should develop a clear strategy and objectives for computerisation in courts and that it should be more positive in providing advice and guidance on computerisation. A recommendation that the Home Office should itself develop, on behalf of the magistrates courts, a prescribed computer software package gave rise to much criticism, which we think is well-founded. We have concluded that the more realistic and practicable approach would be to develop a standard specification for magistrates courts computer systems to which equipment would be expected to conform and, in parallel, to test the feasibility of greater data interchange between current and planned systems through networking arrangements available from the private sector.

A small team is to be established within the Home Office to take forward this work and to provide advice to the courts on computer matters, including the preparation of investment strategies. The work will be carried out in close consultation with the courts, suppliers of equipment, and the other agencies in the criminal justice system.