The UK’s Ministry of Justice is hiring a director of technology, offering £130,000 plus a season ticket loan for whoever wins the chance to “fix the basics” of Britain’s disintegrating, delay-ridden, semi-digitised justice system.
“You will be responsible for delivery of technology services that meet the changing needs of all MoJ business areas. The mission is to run and modernise services to be fast, simple, and supported by commodity cloud services,” burbles the advertisement on (where else?) GOV.UK.
Couched in the usual gov-speak, the advert and its accompanying candidate information pack don’t quite gloss over the task faced by whoever gets the job. The successful candidate will be required to “fix the basics by creating services and systems that are modern, secure and available to everyone” while making them “more efficient” into the bargain.
Travel to London is required “on an occasional basis”, hence the season ticket loan – although the successful candidate can work from Birmingham, Nottingham or Sheffield instead of being based in the capital.
Among other things, the director of technology will be responsible for courtroom Wi-Fi, computing devices for 70,000 staff, overseeing contracts worth tens or even hundreds of millions of pounds, plus heading up a team of 400 staff and directly controlling a budget of £250m. Successful applicants might also need to keep a close eye on the ministry’s contractors.
Creaking along in the background is the MoJ’s oft-touted £1.2bn digital modernisation programme, which aimed to save money as part of a wider plan to sell off court buildings and digitise whatever was left.
Court digitisation has gone poorly in the UK, with grandly titled “remote court hearing” initiatives introduced at great cost largely amounting to MS Teams with MoJ-branded lipstick on. While key parts of previous digitisation efforts collapsed thanks to the sunk cost fallacy, backlogs of criminal cases alone have grown exponentially, mostly through lack of public funding for defence lawyers triggering avoidable delays and confusion as desperate defendants try to navigate the justice system alone.
Inevitably the job will involve dealing with the Government Digital Service’s desire to assimilate the justice.gov.uk website. GDS’s latest assault on the presentation of vital information in a clear and straightforward format has triggered a near-rebellion among anguished lawyers and campaigners alike.
If you get rejected from the MoJ recruitment exercise, don’t bother asking why: “Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.” ®