Officials from HMCTS and MOJ will help organise a hack day with listings data from the court service. This follows a meeting between members of the Crime and Justice Sector Transparency Panel and officials on Friday 6 December. The panel had asked for an explanation as to why it would take ’18 months to two years’ to provide listings data for courts following the welcome announcement of the policy change by the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee to enable publication of lists to the internet.
Officials it turns out were planning on the basis of a full fat web service akin to the police crime website, hence the delay. Panel members made it clear at the 6 December meeting that they would prefer an API or more ‘wholesale’ service than a ‘retail’, consumer facing service. This is more economic for the Crown and increases the likelihood of a service being delivered. There are many players in the criminal justice publishing world who can produce ‘retail’ public or user-facing systems (see this paper for a discussion of government’s role in publishing consumer facing systems).
We learned at the meeting that the current magistrates court listing system is an elderly (15 yo) Oracle installation. We interrogated in particular how the system generates the weekly lists for each of the hundreds of magistrates courts which emerge as a pdf (Highbury corner lists for instance is a weekly document of over 250 pages). We suspect that there is some sort of data output from the database before it becomes a pdf, that can be used to drive a feed or API service without having to interfere with a fragile or inflexible live running system. We await an answer.
Officials agreed to a hack day early in the new year, which should compose of a minority of coders and a majority of people who might want to use the data. This could either be using a dummy data set or real data, if the latter then in a secure environment. ODI will facilitate. We hope this will take place in January or February and will be well publicised in advance. Comments gratefully received, particularly of experience of publishing listings in other jurisdictions.