Monday, 19 September 2011

Technology and destruction court

Evidence of yet further advances in the use of technology by HM Courts and Tribunal Service now emerges.

One of my local courts has removed and/or destroyed its fax machine.  We now have notepaper (because the court still insists on using the post for everything) that has a line through the space where the fax number used to appear.

It’s not all bad because we are exhorted to use e-mail, instead of the fax but it seems the court isn’t quite so committed to the concept as to display the e-mail address on its notepaper.

But we know it, and we use it, because we are all for it. Post is unnecessarily slow and environmentally unfriendly.

So, we send an e-mail and we get an automated response: -

“Thank you for your e-mail.  This e-mail box is accessed daily.  In accordance with HMCS [sic] policy, your e-mail will be dealt with or responded to within ten working days following the date of receipt.”

“Daily?!”  Wow - did somebody find a posse of staff who had nothing to do, suddenly providing the resource to check the e-mail as often as once a day?

“Within ten working days.”  That’s some sort of standard, is it?  Objectively, I suppose that the answer to that question is “yes”.  Let’s be more specific and say, yes, it is a standard but a poor one.

I have never understood - and I have heard and read it for donkeys’ years now - why court offices in particular are so often able to work consistently two or three weeks behind the pace.  If one can do that consistently then, subject to one big drive to clear whatever backlog exists, one can consistently work up-to-date.

It’s the philosophy that we just don’t aim to achieve things in any lesser timescale.  It’s ingrained.

I suppose this is better than the South Devon court which has not only pulled the plug on the fax machine but insists that one may only use the e-mail for the most life-threatening matters.  Why is this?

The simple answer is that if you block off the fax and ignore the e-mail, communications demanding attention don’t reach you as soon as they otherwise would, so you don’t have to deal with them as soon as you otherwise would. 

They may by then have become more (objectively) urgent and have generated a great deal more anxiety and other (subjective) pressures.

Or they may just have gone away – so you don’t have to deal with them at all.

Does Haringey have a county court?