Tag Archives: digital working

For Whom the Bell Tolls

It’s okay, I readily accept that the View From the North is invariably a “glass is half full” kinda view. When I got my acronyms a bit scrambled recently, a commentator observed, quite rightly, that CSJM did not stand for Criminal Justice Secure Mail, but could well mean “Can’t Spell, Just Moans” when it came to my blog. If you have not met me, you can rest assured that my moaning written persona entirely reflects my actual personality. Think Jack Dee without the gags. 

My blog is a cheap form of therapy. It allows me to air the things that irk me. Irked is a pretty permanent state for participants in the criminal justice system. My irk-o-meter is frequently off the scale. And today I am going to share with you something that has been irking me for a while now. 

It is that bloody bell thing. 

I should say that I am not reprising my critically acclaimed role as the Hunchback of Notre Dame in the eponymous theatrical production by the Northern Circuit Players. I refer, of course, to CCDCS.

  
It is that little bell. The little bell with the number 100 in a green circle. 

For those of you yet to be initiated into CCDCS Club, this is the method by which you are notified if anything new is added to your cases on the system. 

Now this is a vital function of the system. As the prosecution upload new evidence or the defence serve skeleton arguments in digital form, the participants need to know this has happened. In the days of paper, the evidence or the application would land in your pigeon hole with a letter attached. I had one solicitor so wedded to paper communication that when I sent him a written advice he would immediately send a copy of it back to me with a letter indicating that I had sent him the attached advice. Which was nice but a tad wasteful. 

Now the new document gets uploaded to the system. And it is vital that you are aware of this in order that you may respond. So three cheers for the little bell thing that tells us something new has arrived. 

Unfortunately it is a bell from the W H Auden poem. It is a bell without a clapper. You get no notification that you have a new notification. One would have thought it would have been relatively easy to have an automated email to tell you that something had arrived. 

I am sure you are all shaking your head at my laziness. “Get a grip” you say, “the bell is telling you something is new whenever you log on.” The problem though is that it only informs you that there is something new by the number increasing. So if you log on one day and have 95 notifications, the only way you know there is a new notification is if you recall how many notifications you had last time you logged on. 

I know, I know. This is me just nitpicking, as per. 

But then you click on the bell to see your notifications. And here the problem is magnified. Your notifications are grouped together case by case and the cases are arranged alphabetically.  So all the notifications for the case of Adams appear together, then all the notifications for the case of Brown (I tell you this just in case you don’t understand how the alphabet works). There is nothing to tell you to which case the new notification relates. The notifications are not ordered in terms of newest notification first, which would be the intuitive way to arrange them. 

So you have to use a combination of recalling when you last logged on, when you received the last notification in any case and then scroll through an ever increasing number of notifications trying to spot the date when material has been added. This is particularly tricky when, as I have today, you have leapt from 95 or 96 to 100. I have no idea how many notifications I am looking for. 

Curiously, when I log on to my notifications today (29th April 2016) the list of notifications informs me they are “shown to Friday, April 15, 2016”;

  
which makes little sense. The list shows me cases to which I was invited in February all the way to cases I was invited to this week. It shows notifications that range in date between February and today. I have absolutely no idea what the date shown above relates to. At first, before I realised that the notification system had been designed by a former employee of Bletchley Park, I was misled into thinking the date on this page was reassuring me I had no new notifications. 

So that is the end of my moan. I fail to understand how a system has been designed in such an unhelpful way. And it really is an obstacle to effective working. The parties being notified of new material is essential to an effective execution of our duties. That little green bell is a recipe for disaster. 

And now I have that off my chest, let me bore you for a moment or two about this crazy weather……

Epic Fail

Being permanently connected to some form of electronic device I monitor social media more keenly than GCHQ. Over the last 48 hours I began to notice people complaining that CJSM, the criminal justice secure email service, was not working. 

Last night we received an email which explained the problem. It opened with this statement:

The Ministry of Justice would like to apologise to CJSM users accessing the service through the CJSM website for the current poor performance of the service, There has been a growth in usage of the service over the pas few months beyond what was expected and over the last couple of months demand has outstripped the capacity of the service.

I am going to let the typo “pas” pass without comment (he says in a passive aggressive way). I am even going to totally ignore the comma followed by a new sentence. 

Let us instead concentrate on the phrase “[t]here has been a growth in usage of the service over the pas[t] few months beyond what was expected and over the last couple of months demand has outstripped the capacity of the service.”

This would seem a reasonable explanation. Save for the fact it is not. The MoJ have been involved intimately in the introduction of Better Case Management and digital working. This requires every participant in the criminal justice system to have a secure email. That means CJSM. So we have been exhorted by….errrr…the MoJ and their partners that we all need a CJSM account as a pre-requisite to use of PCU wifi and access to the case papers online. 

The growth in usage of the service was entirely and utterly predictable. It has been prompted by the actions of the MoJ. 

I am reminded of a teenager who throws a party when their parents go on holiday. They post the invitation to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and are then surprised when it is not just their close friends that turn up but the entire school, seven drug dealers, 567 teenagers from neighbouring towns and a gang of Hells Angels from Holland. 

Actually my friend Brian will chastise me for that analogy because, in this instance, the MoJ have in fact invited the whole school, 567 teenagers and the Dutch biker gang. And then expressed surprise when they all turned up and trashed the house. 

As the Facebook teenager would observe – “epic fail”. 

And this is what worries me about digital working. Not the poor grammar. Not the poor excuse. But the lack of forward thinking that introduces a system of working that the system cannot cope with. 

As fans of Monty Python know, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition. Yet when you tell everyone to get a CJSM account as pre-requisite to participating in the criminal justice system, you really do have to expect every participant will get a CJSM account. 

The MoJ must do better. Again.