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Crisis deepens: Carnage unleashed in our civil courts amidst escalating delays

Crisis deepens: Carnage unleashed in our civil courts amidst escalating delays


The latest civil justice statistics reveal alarming court delays, with a grim outlook exacerbated by budget cuts

The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) has raised a red flag as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) unveils the latest civil justice statistics, painting a bleak picture of the state of courts in England and Wales. The quarterly figures for September to December 2023, disclosed by the MoJ, have sparked concerns over the escalating delays in the legal system.

Matthew Maxwell Scott, ACSO executive director, minced no words in describing the situation, stating, "Frankly, it’s carnage in our courts." He expressed disappointment in the government's decision to announce a £500 million real-terms cut in the MoJ budget for 2024-2025, foreseeing that the already dire numbers would only worsen.

Highlighting the severity of the issue, Maxwell Scott emphasised that court delays are now at their worst since data publication began in 2009. Small claims are experiencing an average wait of 55.8 weeks, up from 55.6 in the previous quarter, while fast/multi-track claims are facing a staggering 85.7-week delay, compared to 76.4 weeks in the preceding quarter. The two-month increase in fast/multi-track delays is particularly alarming as these cases involve high-value matters with significant impacts on people's lives.

Over the entire year from December 2022 to December 2023, court delays have increased by 4.1 weeks for minor claims and 7.0 weeks for fast/multi-track claims. Maxwell Scott warned that individuals and small businesses seeking judgments against non-compliant parties may now have to wait over a year for a court hearing, with serious claims exceeding 18 months.

The ACSO executive director highlighted the detrimental effects on injured individuals, small businesses, and overall consumer confidence in the court system. He underscored the potential collapse of confidence in civil justice, with the cost-of-living crisis adding further strain.

Moreover, Maxwell Scott pointed out a concerning trend: although the number of cases reaching the courts is decreasing, the number of claims lodged with Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is rising by 11% compared to the same period in 2022. This contradiction emphasises the severity of the delays and raises questions about the government's commitment to civil justice.

As the cost-of-living crisis persists, Maxwell Scott concluded with a poignant question: "Have ministers just given up on civil justice?" The disconcerting statistics suggest that the government's approach to civil justice may be faltering, leaving claimants, injured parties, and small businesses in limbo as they grapple with prolonged legal processes.