Tips for HMCTS Members Using the Common Platform

Tips for HMCTS Members Using the Common Platform

We have requested that new cases not be placed on the Common Statute and that mitigation measures be put in place to assist court arbitrators dealing with cases currently on the system. This comes after an alarming increase in reports regarding stress, anxiety and lengthy work arising from ongoing issues with the cross-platform. We have made it clear that continued use of the Common Platform puts members at unacceptable risk.

Computing on the court has resulted in an increase in musculoskeletal stress. These working hours plus longer working hours contribute to the loss of experienced legal advisors, court assistants and court clerks.

PCS believes that late court hearings or late work should very much be the exception. Of course members should not work during their lunch breaks or sit up late. PCS rejected the employer’s claim that working late at night is the choice of our members and HMCTS provides flexibility around working hours and demanded urgent discussions to address the problem.

Failure to identify and address risks

While HMCTS acknowledges the significant impacts they have on health, safety, and well-being, they fail to take adequate action to address the problems. HMCTS has not performed a regulatory risk assessment on the common platform despite its legal obligation to do so. PCS believes that this is because the risks identified will prove that the cross-platform is unsustainable and should be removed.

PCS has previously issued advice to its legal members to use the DMU in the courtroom. That advice remains.

Advice to members

As a result of feedback from members, PCS offers the following advice to all court speakers to protect their health, safety and well-being. The advice is designed to support members in taking appropriate breaks and ensuring that work-life balance is maintained.

PCS does not advocate watching the clock or acting on judgment. Our starting point is that employees should be able to take their lunch break and finish work at the end of their contracted working hours. Working during lunches and working late should be the exception, not the rule.

legal advisors

In Magistrates’ Courts, PCS advises members of its legal advisors to:

  1. Manage bench expectations during the pre-court briefing by reminding the benches to:
    • Court work must be managed so that legal counsel can leave work at or around the end of contract hours. This may mean that the day of the court hearing will need to end earlier than the Board expected in order to allow time for the outcome. This also means that the resulting real time as envisaged by the crime program can occur.
    • They are entitled to take a lunch break of up to an hour, and therefore if the case involves an urgent outcome, this resulting time will need to be added to the permitted period of lunchtime postponement. This may mean that the seat is elevated for more than an hour. Either the morning session ends each time to enable completion of the outcome before the legal counsel takes his lunch or the afternoon session must start at a later time.
    • In some cases, such as overnight remand, the progress the court can make may be limited to a question of bail or remand only to ensure that the cells can be cleared by the end of the day.
  1. Manage expectations early in the morning, so that those who provide support give the result as to when after which legal counsel will not be available, so that they can advise at what time the last result should be shared.
  2. The outcome of each case after the completion of any outcome when the case is in progress only if it does not interfere with the other duties of legal counsel under the Directive of Practice or the Rules of Criminal Procedure. Legal counsel must be confident that when he needs to hear the offers that are being made, he can prioritize listening to them and giving advice even if that means delaying the start of the next case. To be in a position to give full advice on all aspects of the law, evidence, practices and procedures, assist non-representatives in presenting their case, and ensure that all those who appear before our courts have priority when a hearing is held in place. Accurate recording of the result is the priority once the case is completed and if this is not done while performing the previous duties with respect to the next case, you must wait for the start of the next case. Listening and not using the computer at the same time also provides an opportunity to take a break from computer-based work.

4. Take a lunch break of at least half an hour. If you would like or need a longer time, it is a matter of your discretion. They should not perform resulting or completed administrative tasks on behalf of their courts or complete other work related to the court or the trust while doing this time. Not taking proper breaks helps mask the problems of heavily listed courts and poorly designed digital operations. No employee is allowed to recharge their batteries and take a break from screen work. Members are entitled to a lunch break. The fact that HMCTS did not take into account how urgent findings from the last case might be processed before lunch while the court taker takes a lunch break is an issue that HMCTS must address.

5 Review and continue to review the lists to ensure there is sufficient time to hear the work and to complete the administration associated with the court, out of court and after the review.

  • In the afternoon, it will mean close contact with colleagues in other courts and an alert to colleagues who have made changes to their hours under the flexible working policy and who may have a later expiration time. In addition, colleagues who are “visiting” and whose working day includes travel time should be made aware of whether any assistance is available.
  • It could mean that in order to acquit the cells, the court would not be able to go any further than the issue of bail or remand. (It is recognized that there will be cases where there is faster progress and as a result progress rather than deferred and that will be part of the review being done)

6. Ensure that in cases where the resulting amount is likely to fill or exceed the amount of time available for outcome, manual documentation is on hand to ensure the immediate release of bail detainees and that PECS has an injunction for those remanded or detained.

7. In those circumstances where the resulting volume of issues cannot be finalized/recounted by the time your contract hours are up or soon, email your line manager outlining what is left so your manager can make a decision on how to take these The result. In the event that your line manager is in court, make sure of this on the TIB morning team.

8. Refrain from carrying out other criminal or family acts during litigation. In the rare cases where the query is very urgent because for example the welfare of the child is immediately at risk or the defendant appears to have been wrongfully arrested or imprisoned, stop your court while the matter is being processed.

If, while following any of the above advice, your manager indicates a refusal to pursue a reasonable management request, You should seek urgent advice from PCS by email rebecca@pcs.org.uk With the topic title – Urgent advice on reasonable management instructions.

Court colleagues and court clerks

Some of the advice applies equally and without the need for qualification or modification to the associate members of the court and the court clerk sitting with a judge, eg points 2, 4, 6, 7 and 8. Others apply as amended as follows:

  • Ask the judge during pre-court discussion during pre-court discussion of court business to the extent possible, to ensure that urgent orders such as those permitting the defendant’s detention or release from custody or in respect of protective orders can be prioritized
  • Ask the judge to wake up for an hour when you postpone your lunch date so that you can ensure that you get a proper break. If the last case before lunch turns out to be a case involving a defendant in custody, prepare a manual document so that the defendant will be detained/released accordingly and the resulting address after taking a break. If the judge does not agree, raise the issue with your line manager and ask that it be addressed. If not addressed, contact PCS.
  • If the speed at which the judge is working means you can’t keep up with the results, make a clear written note of the results, prioritizing urgent orders and urgent results.
  • The magnitude of the results you may get means that it is very important to make early contact with a manager to see if any resulting support is available to you during the hearing and to decide what the priorities are before you leave and how your remainder will be handled.

Listing is a judicial decision but ensuring that HMCTS is equipped with the resources to deal with issues arising from listing decisions is not.

Remember that you cannot do everything. You are expected to work with a product that has significant flaws in design, functionality, and performance. You are only expected to do your best, and you are not expected to do more. You are certainly not expected to routinely work outside those hours you are hired to do so.

If you followed this advice and your line manager raises any issue with you, call rebecca@pcs.org.uk With the topic title – Urgent advice on reasonable management instructions. Specify the details. PCS will support any member seeking to protect their health, safety and well-being.

Safety at work is a right, not a privilege.

Please discuss this with colleagues who are not currently members and encourage them to do so join Online.

Please help PCS to keep in touch with you about matters that affect you and make sure we have an up-to-date home and work address, personal email and mobile phone number for you. Could you Check your details and update them online.

If you require further advice or assistance with any stress related issue related to cross platform operation, please contact Karen Watts at karenw@pcs.org.uk.

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