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More pressure applied to the County Courts to improve performance

More pressure applied to the County Courts to improve performance


ACSO responds to the Justice Select Committee decision to hold an inquiry into County Court Delays in the civil justice system

Responding to news that the House of Commons Justice Select Committee is to launch an inquiry into the record delays in the county courts in England & Wales, Matthew Maxwell Scott, Executive Director of ACSO (the Association of Consumer Support Organisations), said:

"It’s good that the committee has again responded to our pleas for an independent inquiry into one of the major issues facing civil justice. As with its ongoing work on the Civil Liability Act reforms, we trust the committee to look forensically at the problems faced and challenge the government to respond.

"As we have repeatedly said, court delays are at record highs, with the latest official data showing claimants waiting 52.3 weeks and 78.2 weeks respectively to get small claims and multi/fast track claims to trial, despite falling claims volumes in areas such as personal injury. HMCTS admits that while covid had an impact, the problems pre-date the pandemic, when waits were 37.2 weeks for small claims and 59.4 weeks for multi/fast track claims. The transfer of civil administration work to the new Civil National Business Centre has contributed further to delays.

"Research we have done with law firm Express Solicitors also reveals a 'postcode lottery' for consumers seeking justice, with average waits at 353 days but the variance from 251 days in the best-performing areas to an extraordinary 462 days in the worst. (i)

"We’ve already urged the committee to ask experienced practitioners at the coalface why this is, and seek their help to set out sensible ideas for tackling the backlogs, be this through targeted extra resources, better use of digital modernisation or more alternative dispute resolution, where appropriate. 

"Access to justice delayed is access to justice denied, and it is only right that the Justice Select Committee reminds ministers of this.

"Looking ahead, this inquiry should be a stepping stone to a full-scale commission on civil justice with the needs of consumers as its heart."