The Make a Plea service will allow people to enter their pleas online for summary traffic offences; which would not result in a prison term for the defendant if convicted. This service aims to:
- reduce the number of defendants attending court unnecessarily
- create a public plea entry for traffic offences
- provide a fee payment mechanism for guilty pleas
- show results of cases and notify defendants online
The Make a Plea service is starting with Greater Manchester Police, with a commitment to deliver a nationally scalable service, on behalf of the HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) Common Platform Programme in 2015.
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Date of Assessment:
Result of Assessment:
Outcome of service assessment
After consideration the assessment panel has concluded the Make a Plea service has shown sufficient progress and evidence of meeting the Digital by Default Service Standard criteria and should proceed to launch as a beta service on a service.gov.uk domain. This means the service can now replace its alpha branding with beta branding.
The service currently meets the requirements of the standard for beta. Areas of good performance against the standard are as follows.
Since the alpha assessment, the team has continued to conduct in-depth user research with the service, including user experience with the Single Justice Procedure notice. Of particular note:
- Assessing how the needs of other police forces differ from those of Greater Manchester, which in turn feeds into changes needed in the service to facilitate national deployment.
- Researching and testing use cases for company directors and officers to enter pleas on behalf of employees.
Assisted digital and digital take-up
The team has been extremely effective in determining and delivering an appropriate plan to cover assisted digital (AD) user needs. The team brought an AD call centre into operation on 11th February 2015 and offered 500 users the option to make a plea by telephone. All users were defendants in the Greater Manchester area who had court hearings scheduled in the first half of April 2015.
Since mid-February, the AD call centre has received 72 calls (14% of the 500 user sample), of which 37 were queries for information by users who had already successfully entered their plea through the digital service. The remaining 35 calls received were representative users with AD needs.
From the data gathered from the AD call centre, the team is planning to make improvements to the service. These improvements will include:
- Providing users with clearer information to pre-empt queries.
- Emphasising use of the digital channel by default in the documentation used to initiate the use of the digital service (the police’s requisition pack).
- Providing clearer guidance on the most appropriate number to call for information should users still have a query.
Security, privacy, tools and standards
- A number of architectural improvements have been made to the service recently in the development environment but have not yet been deployed to the production environment. Consider how these changes could be deployed to production incrementally rather than all at once. The assessor panel notes that the incremental approach may not be as straightforward from a technical standpoint.
- Seek recommendations from other service teams to identify possible choices for an alternative provider for hosting static holding pages in an entirely separate location.
- Ordinarily for live running, the anticipated first and second line support service level agreement (SLA) for the Make a Plea service would cover working days, 9am to 5pm. Consider putting in place an extended support SLA during beta, particularly while making the service available to additional police forces.
- Consider reusing the London WebOps team’s templates for provisioning and service management.
- Ensure that any member of the development team can trigger a load testing run through the continuous integration server.
- Load test the service to the point of failure, and check that the service recovers when load subsides.
- Do a full walk-through of the disaster recovery plan, either in the staging environment or in the production environment at a point of very low traffic, when a short period of downtime would be acceptable.
Improving the service
- Form a plan for supporting the service via the newly created second line support team based in London.
- Change the service domain to www.makeaplea.service.gov.uk on passing beta assessment from www.makeaplea.justice.gov.uk with appropriate redirects.
Assisted digital and digital take-up
- Seek advice from other service teams already making use of the call centre channel for AD (e.g. the Visit Someone in Prison service) to form a plan for what to do when the call centre is closed.
Analysis and benchmarking
- Seek examples from the Civil Legal Advice team for how to reduce unnecessary calls to the AD call centre. Work with your stakeholders to define the correct path for people wishing to phone in.
- Use the trends in types of unnecessary calls coming into the AD call centre as a source of input to determine possible improvements to the service.
Digital by Default Service Standard criteria