Paperwork in the cloud speeds justice

01 March 2018

Paperwork was a burden at Swansea Civil and Family Justice Centre which hears child care cases for counties in southwest Wales: Bridgend, the City and County of Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Powys, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Neath and Port Talbot.

For each hearing, all parties share case information in a “court bundle,” traditionally a set of lever arch files, each containing around 350 sheets of paper. Each file must be paginated, indexed, copied, and distributed, usually by courier, to all the parties involved. Subsequent amendments or additions must then be managed for all copies and parties throughout the case.

The time and cost of administration were enormous. Missing or inconsistent pages could delay hearings and security was a concern because physical documents are easily lost or stolen.

South West Wales Shared Services Group worked together with the Swansea Civil and Family Justice Centre to find a solution. They chose Citrix ShareFileto create the cloud-based South Wales Shared Services Portal which now hosts millions of case documents.

Before the portal was introduced, the Swansea team were making a million photocopies per year; this figure has been reduced by 84 per cent. Immediacy has improved, says the justice centre, because any time there is an update to a case bundle, it is available straight away. Each party in the case always has the same view, and cases are no longer delayed because of disputes over mismatched files.

Encryption and permission controls have enabled Swansea Civil and Family Justice Centre to expand the roles that can view the paperwork. With the correct authorisations, independent social workers and medical experts can have access to appropriate individual documents, such as medical records. The portal team is also using features that discourage copying or printing to litigants in person.

Gawain Williams, Carmarthenshire County Council Childcare Solicitor, says the portal has changed the way he and his colleagues work. He says: “Because it sits in the cloud, it’s available and up-to-date 24 hours a day. Barristers work in the middle of the night, judges read court papers on the weekends when they’re not in hearings, so having access to a live, shared bundle is extraordinarily important. Judges are already saying they don’t need paper bundles so much. Instead of bringing 15 lever arch files to court, we can simply bring a laptop.”