Integrated Criminal Case Filing and Management System (ICMS)
State Courts of Singapore

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Singapore is a nation state with a population of 5.6 million. The Singapore Judiciary administers justice across the country, and comprises the Supreme Court, the State Courts, and the Family Justice Courts. The State Courts of Singapore consist of the District and Magistrate Courts, both of which oversee criminal and civil matters. The Criminal Justice Division of the State Courts handles on average more than 250,000 cases annually, representing 99% of the criminal caseload in Singapore. Prior to the introduction of the Integrated Criminal Case Filing and Management System (ICMS), criminal cases coming before the State Courts were predominantly managed using paper files and processes. A rush by law enforcement agencies seeking to register their cases through paper submissions in the early morning used to be a common occurrence. Delays in the assembly, filing and retrieval of documents were frequently expected. Selected case information, such as court events and case outcomes, were also manually entered into legacy case management systems primarily for record keeping purposes. These legacy systems had limited or no integration with our external stakeholders’ systems. Crucial case information had to be communicated to our stakeholders manually. For example, warrants of commitment issued to the Prisons to administer the sentences imposed by the court had to be printed out for manual transmission. This not only took up considerable time, but also introduced the risk of human errors. Under the previous paper-based system, downstream stakeholders (e.g. the Singapore Police Force and Prisons Service) also did not have real time information on the status of court proceedings. The implementation of follow-up actions following the making of court orders might not always be effected on a timely basis. Considerable effort was also expended by court administrators in transferring information from the judges’ handwritten notes into the legacy systems. Human errors could be introduced during the information transfer process, undermining the accuracy and integrity of the criminal case management system. In addition, court administrators had to copy court deployment information into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which were then used to manage the court calendars of the criminal courts. Where such information was not entered accurately, service delivery and accountability to the court users could be adversely impacted. Accused-in-persons (AIPs) were also unable to easily access relevant case information and track the progress of their cases. The criminal justice system may consequently appear opaque to them. AIPs further need to take time off work to travel to the State Courts for various applications, which may affect their livelihoods. Navigating through the criminal justice system for AIPs could be a challenging task. With the State Courts managing such a large caseload, ensuring the integrity of the entire criminal case management system is an important priority. It was therefore important that the existing criminal case management system be modernised by harnessing on technology, so as to further enhance public trust and confidence.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The ICMS is an end-to-end integrated electronic case management system that enables the sharing of accurate, current and relevant case information amongst all key stakeholders in the criminal justice system, such as law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and defence counsel. The ICMS is integrated with the existing electronic systems of many law enforcement agencies, allowing stakeholders to work collaboratively before and during court proceedings for better outcomes, and to enable rigorous tracking of court orders and follow-up actions to enhance accountability. AIPs are also given access to the system, allowing them to track the progress of their case and to make certain applications online.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
ICMS aims to achieve three main objectives: (i) to transform the existing paper-based processes into an efficient electronic workflow; (ii) to break through the silos of internal and external systems of stakeholders through instant transmission of information; and (iii) to improve the tracking of tasks, cases and outcomes. The enhanced value brought about by the ICMS is as follows: a. Integrated environment for increased accountability and integrity The entire life cycle of a case is handled electronically via the system. The e-minute sheets used by judges to enter the orders made and sentences passed are automatically generated as readable (PDF) documents and stored into the e-case file upon the conclusion of a hearing. This avoids data entry errors by court staff. With data ‘harvested’ from the inception of a case and with judges entering orders at source, this ensures accountability and integrity of data. With the integration of internal and external systems, real-time update of court outcomes and orders is made possible, speeding up internal and external downstream work processes. b. ‘Publisher’ of case information resulting in increased transparency. All case information are indexed and stored in the e-case file repository for each party’s concurrent access, ensuring timely access and transparency of information during the life cycle of a case. In addition, the ICMS transmits data of court outcomes to all relevant stakeholders through systems integration. This has transformed the role of the judiciary from being a mere ‘receiver’ of information, to that of a ‘publisher’ of information, increasing transparency and promoting timely access to information. c. Transparency and multi-party real-time access and collaboration. ICMS can also synchronise e-case files across to the judge, court officer, interpreter and all parties when a case is being mentioned or heard to ensure that relevant documents are being displayed to all parties. Parties retain the flexibility to refer to any document within the case file. This facilitates access to the case documents during hearings. For example, prosecutors and defence counsel can view the same charge or other documents whilst they are being read to the accused by the interpreter. It also enables parties to amend and upload documents in the court room into the e-case file, with the newly uploaded document being accessible by all parties immediately. d. Use of mobile computing devices. ICMS promotes the use of mobile computing devices. iPads are used in courtrooms by Court interpreters to view and interpret key court documents without the need to print them. The use of such mobile computing devices is not limited to State Courts’ staff. Investigation Officers may use iPads to register Coroners cases whilst at the scene of investigations without having to return to their desk to do so. Through the adoption of mobile computing devices, the ICMS enhances mobility, convenience and flexibility for users. It also paves the way for the design of future courtrooms and changes the way court users can access these courtrooms. e. Access by Accused-in-Persons ICMS allows AIPs to gain access to the system, and track the progress of their cases, thereby improving the transparency of the criminal justice system. AIPs are also able to file certain applications (e.g. application to leave jurisdiction, reschedule a court event, etc.) online without the need to travel to the State Courts. They are also able to upload documents – such as their mitigation plea and other supporting documents - into their case file online. This enables AIPs to reduce time spent away from work, thereby averting potential further adverse impact on their ability to earn a living when their cases are heard in court.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Based on our interactions with foreign judicial and legal delegates when ICMS was presented at international conferences and during local and overseas presentations, ICMS is possibly the first end-to-end criminal case management system in the world. It is a 100% browser-based, end-to-end platform that has transformed court processes into an integrated e-filing, e-workflow and e-court hearing system. It is also possibly the first large-scale multi-agency project in the world in the criminal case management setting that interlinks all the key stakeholders (more than 30 public agencies) into one integrated criminal justice system. The electronic workflow starts from the moment a case is filed and extends from initiation to scheduling, processing, hearing and tracking of all criminal, traffic, coronial and juvenile proceedings, to the time a final verdict is pronounced. It paves the way for boundary-less case information access through complete end-to-end electronic management of a case life cycle. Finally, based on our understanding, it is also the first system in the world that allows AIPs access to their case files electronically, as well make various online applications concerning their case.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
ICMS is an ambitious multi-agency project driven by the State Courts of Singapore in close collaboration with our stakeholders in the criminal justice system. These stakeholders include members of the criminal bar, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the Singapore Police Force (SPF), the Singapore Prisons Service (PRIS), all 30 other law enforcement agencies, three Warrant Enforcement Units, the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and the Probation Services Branch of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). Safety and security affect everyone in Singapore. Expeditious disposal of criminal cases ensures that the innocent are acquitted, and those who are guilty and sentenced to custodial terms are placed in institutions for public safety and rehabilitation, on a timely basis. Hence, the entire population in Singapore (i.e. 5.6 million) stand to benefit from the initiative. Furthermore, ICMS benefits AIPs, as they can view their case documents, check the progress of their cases as well as make selected court applications via the online ICMS platform. Based on statistics, between 2015 and 2016, around 25% of accused persons that underwent pre-trial procedures in the State Courts did not engage a lawyer. Therefore, ICMS helps this segment of the society as well, and ensures the criminal justice system remains transparent.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Given the scale of the ICMS project, considerable funding had to be secured. It was difficult for State Courts to reallocate funding from its existing budget to the ICMS project, as this would have had an adverse impact on other State Courts projects and functions and/or necessitated a significant paring down of the scope and requirements of the ICMS project. The State Courts decided to submit a detailed Reinvestment Funding (RF) proposal to the Ministry of Finance for project funding. A budget was secured and covered the costs of development, implementation and maintenance over a seven-year period. The driving force for the entire project came from the highest level of leadership in the State Courts. Further, a multi-agency steering committee was set up to guide the vision and direction of the project, and coordinate various aspects of project design and implementation. The committee was chaired by the senior leadership of the State Courts and involved senior management members from participating agencies. The steering committee held regular meetings. This created an effective engagement and communication platform - decisions were made, feedback was sought, and updates were given during the steering committee meetings. Monthly internal meetings at the State Courts were held to closely supervise the progress of the project. The active involvement of the senior leaders from both the State Courts and our stakeholder agencies, and their willingness to cooperate to defuse and resolve issues, were crucial in ensuring that the project was successfully developed, implemented, and smoothly integrated with the work processes of participating agencies. At the operational level, a project implementation team was formed to facilitate decision-making on operational matters. An experienced judge from the State Courts Criminal Justice Division was appointed as the ICMS project executive sponsor. The executive sponsor dedicated her time fully to lead the project at the operational level, especially during the development and implementation phases. She also took responsibility for decision-making at the operational level, making prompt decisions on the design of the ICMS work processes. Senior court administrators familiar with the State Courts’ internal processes, as well as IT experts seconded from the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), were also involved in the implementation efforts. GovTech is an agency that partners public agencies to develop and deliver secure digital services and applied technology. The agency also builds key platforms and solutions needed to support Singapore as a Smart Nation. GovTech lent its technical expertise as the subject matter expert in the ICMS project. Ecquaria Technologies was selected as the vendor for the ICMS project via an open tender process. Ecquaria is an experienced vendor that is familiar with implementing State Courts’ case management system. Throughout the implementation, feedback was constantly sought from the targeted users of the new system, and this enabled State Courts to provide timely project updates and gather feedback. Roadshows and mass briefings were conducted so that the project team could reach out to a wider audience. More than 600 user acceptance tests were conducted in total during various phases. These were followed by several hands-on training sessions. The project team also opted for a phased rollout of the ICMS, rather than a big bang launch. The project was divided into 4 different phases, with different stakeholder groups being involved in each phase. By starting with a small pilot phase, the project team could quickly address any issues in the system that surfaced during the initial roll-out. This approach allowed the project team to sharpen its focus for decision making and coordination at each stage.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) approved the proposal and Reinvestment Funding for the project, which allowed State Courts to secure adequate funding for the project. During the design stage, the requirements from all stakeholders, namely the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the Singapore Police Force (SPF), the Singapore Prisons Service (PRIS), all 30 other law enforcement agencies, three Warrant Enforcement Units, the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and the Probation Services Branch of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) were all gathered and considered. As mentioned in Question 6 previously, senior management from these agencies were invited to be part of the project steering committee, chaired by the Presiding Judge of State Courts. Inputs from these agencies were important in shaping the project. In addition, GovTech was engaged as a strategic partner, and seconded Information Technology experts to the State Courts to advise on technical matters. The vendor for the ICMS project - Ecquaria Technologies - was also an experienced vendor that was familiar with State Courts’ previous case management system. After ICMS was rolled out in 2015, State Courts continued to hold regular meetings with partner agencies, and made improvements to the ICMS whenever necessary. Other stakeholders, such as defence counsel, could also channel their feedback concerning ICMS to State Courts, through regular dialogues such as those held with the Law Society of Singapore. State Courts also conducted regular surveys to seek feedback from court users and the general public. Useful feedback concerning ICMS was studied and incorporated from time to time.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The implementation of ICMS is well aligned with Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), “… to provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. The key benefits, mentioned earlier under Question 3, are aligned to the SDG as follows: 1. All cases are now handled electronically via the system. The e-minute sheets used by judges to enter the orders made and sentences passed are automatically generated as readable PDF documents and stored into the e-case file upon the conclusion of a hearing. This avoids data entry errors by court staff. With data ‘harvested’ from the inception of a case and with judges entering orders at source, accuracy and reliability of data are ensured, thereby promoting the accountability of the criminal justice ecosystem. 2. ICMS allows for filing 24 hours every day, enabling court users to maximise filing deadlines, and to file from the convenience of their offices. Moreover, ICMS enables the timely receipt of applications and documents, as applications and documents are now auto-routed to the inbox of the relevant courts and added to the e-case file almost instantaneously. This enhances transparency for all parties involved. 3. ICMS eliminates the need for physical case file management, leading to storage space savings. Judges can access case documents ahead of hearings and save any notes made. These productivity gains allow judges to focus on the essentials of delivering justice, resulting in more time and attention being devoted to each case. Access to justice is enhanced. 4. ICMS allows for the synchronisation of e-case files across the judge, court officer, interpreter and all parties when a case is being mentioned or heard. All parties can access and verify the contents of the relevant documents at the same time. This enhances transparency and accountability for all parties involved in the case, and ensures the integrity of the criminal justice ecosystem. 5. AIPs are able to file certain applications online without the need to personally travel to State Courts. These include applications to leave jurisdiction, rescheduling of court events, etc. They are also able to upload documents, such as their mitigation plea and supporting documents, into their case files. Consequently, ICMS operationalises Goal 16 by increasing access to justice at all levels.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
As the ICMS is a multi-agency IT project, strong collaboration, commitment and buy-in from our external stakeholders was crucial. To address this issue, an ICMS Steering Committee led by senior members of the Leadership Team of the State Courts and leaders of our external stakeholders was established to provide top level guidance and support for the project. The Steering Committee met regularly to monitor and track the development of the ICMS. The strong leadership commitment as well as dedicated collaboration of our partners were instrumental to the success of the project. Further, to overcome initial resistance from certain stakeholder groups, and to address the large scale and scope of the project, ICMS was implemented in phases. This allowed the project team to learn from their experiences, and for users to gain confidence in using the system as it was being rolled out progressively in 6-monthly intervals. For instance, the initial phase of ICMS involved selected divisions of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) only, and covered mainly pre-trial processes (e.g. warrants, mentions, charges, bail, etc.). In the second phase, all remaining SPF divisions were included, and the functionalities were expanded to cover appeals and the Youth Court, etc. In the 3rd phase, other law enforcement agencies were brought in, and trial proceedings were added. In the 4th phase, other processes such as Magistrate’s Complaints and Coroners cases were added. Internally, State Courts’ leadership also put in place change management processes to help administrative staff and judicial officers transition from a paper-based system (which they have grown accustomed to), to a fully digitized case management system. These were achieved via numerous user testings, hands-on sessions and mock court sessions were conducted for the judges and court administrators.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
ICMS offers tremendous operational efficiencies for law enforcement officers by allowing them to register their cases 24/7. Given that ICMS involves more than 30 enforcement agencies and accepts cases from a wide array of offences handled by agencies such as Land Transport Authority, Ministry of Health, Building and Construction Authority, Health Science Authority, Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, National Parks and others, accused persons could come from all walks of life. As work processes are built into ICMS and helps parties to keep track of timelines, this enables the courts to expedite cases and reduce waiting time and expense for the parties. With shorter waiting times, the anxiety experienced by accused persons and their families when cases are pending is also reduced. Case information in ICMS is indexed and stored in its e-case file repository. The information is also kept up-to-date as the prosecution and defence counsel would provide the latest information concerning the case in the system. Full transparency is also assured as all parties have concurrent access to the case file. Accused persons are informed of the latest case developments, so that they can make the most informed decisions as their case progress. With orders entered at source by the judges, chances of human errors are lowered, and the accuracy and completeness of the recording of judicial directions and orders are enhanced. Such a system promotes transparency, accountability and engenders greater public trust and confidence in the legal system. ICMS also confers benefits on court staff. Laborious processes associated with preparing and moving physical files, as well as effecting duplicate data entries, have been eliminated. As judicial officers directly enter court orders into the system, court administrators can now focus on managing court users, assisting judges with case exhibits, performing calendaring tasks, and other administrative support functions. Court staff can also focus on interacting with and assisting court users who need help, such as on court procedures and processes. There have also been cost savings arising from the implementation of ICMS by the State Courts and other agencies, estimated at SGD3.93 million or USD2.8 million annually. These arise from the elimination of activities such as the maintenance of microfilm archives, execution of various manual processes, etc. The savings have been better channelled to other more meaningful activities to better serve our court users. All litigants, whether they are represented by counsel or not, will be able to access their case files, follow the progress of their cases, file certain applications and access their own case information online. Unrepresented accused persons can also make certain applications online, such as application to leave jurisdiction, reschedule court events, request for vacation of hearings, bail variation mention dates, etc. The ability to make online applications cuts down their need to take time off work to attend at the courts. This minimizes disruptions to their regular working life, and helps improve access to justice.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Transparency International has ranked Singapore the 7th least corrupt country in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016. The Singapore Civil Service stipulates integrity, service and excellence as amongst its core values. ICMS continues this strong legacy by ensuring that accountability and integrity are built into the ICMS system. Each critical task as well as the status of court orders are fully tracked in the system. As ICMS is fully integrated with the electronic systems of many other agencies, transfer of data and information between agencies are fully automated. Judges also enter their orders and directions directly into ICMS, removing the need for court staff to input the judge’s orders from his minute sheet into the system. AIPs also have access to the system, and can ensure that all key court information are correct and up-to-date. Collectively, these reduce incidences of data transfer errors, promote the integrity and accountability of the courts, and enhance public confidence. For cases involving AIPs, before the implementation of ICMS, law enforcement officers, court officers as well as prosecutors often needed to attend to and/or interact with the AIPs directly. The public may perceive these government officers to be associating too closely with the AIPs or attempting to influence them, potentially calling into question their neutrality. With the implementation of ICMS, AIPs are now empowered to check the court progress themselves, and their interaction with government officials outside court settings is now reduced. The impartiality and neutrality of our government officers are accordingly enhanced.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Accused-in-persons (AIPs) often belong to a less privileged segment of society. In many cases, they cannot afford legal representation and/or do not qualify for legal aid. The criminal justice system appears complicated and opaque to them. Their plight is exacerbated by the difficulties they face in accessing updated case information, and tracking the progress of their cases through the court system. Separately, these AIPs may need to take leave from work just to travel to State Courts for various applications, with potential adverse impacts on their livelihoods. For AIPs without any legal representation, navigating the criminal justice system for AIPs could be a daunting task. ICMS helps them to overcome some of these barriers by giving them access to their case documents in the system remotely. It allows them to keep track of the progress of their cases and remotely file selected applications. The system does not discriminate women and girls, who can access the system through mobile devices at home, or through computers available at easily accessible locations, such as public libraries.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   State Courts of Singapore
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Tsang Wing Phang
Title:   Strategic Planning and Technology Division  
Telephone/ Fax:   64355092
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   phang_tsang_wing@statecourts.gov.sg  
Address:   1 Havelock Square
Postal Code:   059724
City:   Singapore
State/Province:   Singapore
Country:  

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