Client story

Make a Plea online solution

Ministry of Justice

Situation (The Challenge)

Scrumconnect helped build one of the earliest exemplar services for the Ministry Of Justice. We helped the Ministry adopt a cloud-first approach and build modern services to transform their organisation.

The Manchester branch for MOJ Digital Services was set up in April 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of unnecessary visits to court when defendants simply wanted to plead guilty.

Working out of Manchester’s magistrates’ court, Scrumconnect worked on developing a product that fulfilled a defined user need and that could be deployed nationwide.

Our activities

We worked with MOJ to understand and agree on the methodology and align with the Government Digital Services (GDS) approach, including:

  • Building a service using GDS methodology
  • Helping MOJ adopt a cloud-first approach
  • Build a minimum viable product (MVP) and iterate and adapt to enable scaling

Our approach meant we adopted and aligned to MOJ methodology and technology blueprints, including:

  • Respecting the current methodology and technology decisions and where necessary working with MOJ to apply changes where required
  • Bringing in client experts in the prescribed technology blueprint: DDD, CQRS, microservices, GDS methodology
  • Iterating services based on user research and a continuous workflow using agile methodology
  • Our consultants working together to improve the user experience. We let data drive the decision making. We prototyped and tested with users, then iterated based on findings
  • Analytics informing every aspect of the project. We worked with the service manager and policy colleagues to reduce questions to a minimum, thus creating a clearer, simpler user journey
  • Working closely with the product owner to design and deliver a simple, easy-to-use service based on user needs, deep experience of implementing and coaching best-practice development and testing
  • We used TDD, BDD, continuous integration/delivery and DevOps as our core practices, as seen in the below diagram

The initial discovery stage involved understanding the process, identifying any service breakdowns and dissecting the pain points and needs of the user.

We spoke with defendants, court ushers, legal advisers and magistrates, who provided us with a clear understanding of the situation. By observing court hearings and analysing the type of paperwork being sent out to defendants, it was possible to build a picture of why people were turning up to court.

The discovery phase found that people were confused by all the paperwork they’d been sent and were having to turn up in court just so someone could tell them what to do. Many defendants turned up to court without a clear understanding of their charge, the hearing process, their options for defence, the likely penalties or how they could reduce those penalties. Additionally, defendants were not prepared to discuss the fee payment schedule, meaning they often offered high numbers or accepted whatever the magistrate suggested.

Utilising research and user feedback, a new form was developed explaining that defendants could make a plea online, see their plea sent to the court (and receive email confirmation) and then just wait for the court to inform them of the result and what to do next.

The development process had a clear focus on producing the minimum viable product through iterative development with the team growing organically to involve specialists as required.

The elements involved in this solution were:

  • A constantly evolving roadmap, the evolution of which was influenced by and regularly changed based on our interactions with users and potential users of the service
  • Establishing user needs and working collaboratively with the business product owner to agree on the MVP for the service
  • Development of simple prototypes which were tested and refined iteratively with users, leading to designs we can then implement for real

The Scrumconnect team worked closely with Greater Manchester Police and the Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court, building effective working relationships so that everyone in the process understood the benefits of engaging with the product’s development and were clear about the goals. Being located in the magistrates’ courts in Manchester really helped this positive partnership working.


In conjunction with users, court staff and the police, we applied our user-centric approach to service delivery and created an MVP in the form of a new digital service. The project was discovered, designed, built and released to the Manchester public within 22 weeks in accordance with the GDS development process. The working service can be seen on

Just before Christmas 2014 there were 1,000 pleas and the dashboard (below) sets out some of the statistics at the time of writing.

The outcome was a new, simpler and easy to use customer-facing digital service for making a plea. The project began as a pilot but following its success was rolled out nationally making the service MOJ’s cloud first approach and using the GDS methodology. We continue to iterate and develop the Make a Plea service in line with ongoing user research and testing.

During our involvement user satisfaction levels were at 90%, the completion rate rose from 63% to 81% and this take-up led to savings of more than £1m per year. As the service matured we were able to reduce our developer headcount from 7 to 4 developers, thereby allowing the MOJ to bring in junior civil servants to pair and learn from our expert practitioners

Benefits of Make of Plea