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It could take up to four years for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to install a standardised IT system, it has been revealed.
The CPS has opted for a private finance initiative (PFI) contract to pay for any future deal, but bids will not be invited for several months.
The choice of a PFI deal goes directly against recommendations in the Glidewell Report, released in June 1998, into the workings of the CPS.
The report concluded it was "sceptical" that a PFI contract was in the best interests of the CPS or the criminal justice system. Instead it advocated a criminal justice information technology organisation to serve all agencies, with a budget of its own.
But the CPS has opted for PFI because, according to sources, there was no alternative given the lack of resources.
The new Director of Public Prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith QC, admits the lack of IT is causing him a major headache in the run-up to the restructuring of the CPS on 1 April this year.
He accepts he has little expertise in the area. "I am standing pretty well clear of IT," he admits, leaving the responsibility to CPS chief executive Mark Addison.
A CPS spokeswoman says: "I wouldn't think the whole thing would be finished for three to four years. It is in its very early days."
Chief Crown Prosecutor Chris Nicholls, who chairs the PFI project board, says: "We are still working on the shape of the new system with a view to placing an advertisement for tenders as soon as possible.
"But the process requires that when you place the tender advertisement, you have a fairly well-defined shape for what you want. The advertisement is quite a long way down the road."