Pilot electronic mail (email) systems are to be introduced in the Hampshire and Suffolk Crown Prosecution Service offices this month.
The initiative is part of a major project to co-ordinate IT throughout the criminal justice system.
CPS IT manager Roger Barbour says the project is the first step toward a comprehensive CPS email service which will rival the telephone, courier services and fax machines.
The email pilots are business rather than technology-driven. They are geared towards understanding how the electronic transfer of information using email can be used to support the business processes and the more effective administration of the criminal justice system
The objective is to identify the costs and benefits of transferring high priority information electronically between criminal justice offices to establish a business case for national implementation.
Before the system is adopted the co-ordination of computerisation in the criminal justice system (CCCJS) unit decides which documents have priority.
More than 50 types of information transfers have been suggested as suitable for emailing between different participants in the criminal justice network. These include request actions and updates between the CPS and the police; bail conditions between magistrates' courts and the police; CREST lists between Crown Courts and other organisations in the system; discontinuance documents between the CPS and magistrates' courts; and home circumstances reports for prison and probation services.
The email scheme is part of a larger programme run by CCCJS to establish a criminal justice network throughout the CPS, the magistrates' courts, the probation service, the police, the Home Office, the Lord Chancellor's Department, and the probation service.
Martin Narey, who runs the CCCJS project, says: “The streamlining, rationalisation and automation of information flows on a national scale will lead to substantial efficiency improvements.”
Gains will be made by a reduction in time spent by staff processing enquiries and rekeying information into a computer system. Efficiency savings are estimated at £30 million per year.