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‘Crumbling’ English courts delay small claims

10 Jun 2024 / britain Print

‘Crumbling’ English courts delay small claims

The Law Society of England and Wales has highlighted figures showing that small-claims matters are taking more than a year to reach trial in the jurisdiction’s county courts.

The Law Society Gazette of England and Wales quotes the organisation as saying that leaking roofs and toilets across the crumbling court estate are partly to blame for the delays.

The time it takes for small-claims cases to go to trial has risen by 30 weeks since 2010, despite there being 2,000 fewer cases than 14 years ago, according to the society, which cites figures published in the British Government’s Civil Justice Statistics Quarterly.

For more complex, higher-value cases, it now takes more than a year and a half (80 weeks) to reach trial.

Litigants ‘dropping claims’

Calling on the next British Government to commission research on the issue, Law Society president Nick Emmerson said: “We know that delays can result in litigants dropping their claims, rather than put more time and money into them, meaning many are not accessing justice. Justice delayed is justice denied.

“Law Society research has found that 47% of court users experienced a case delay and adjournment in the preceding 12 months, and 28% said the courts estate was not fit for purpose.

“The court estate is mired by leaking roofs, toilets, chairs held together by gaffer tape, exposed wiring and a lack of heating and air conditioning. Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) has also been found in at least eight courts – including Doncaster Justice Centre North and Blackpool County Court – meaning they were forced to close.

“This adds pressure to the surrounding courts who pick up the slack and creates extensive disruption to litigants, practitioners and court staff,” he concluded.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland