county court sign

Carnage in our Civil Courts after delays increase again

Posted on Thu, 07/03/2024

The latest civil justice statistics quarterly paints a grim picture of the state of the courts in England and Wales, according to the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO). 

Commenting on the latest figures (for September to December 2023), published by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) today, Matthew Maxwell Scott, ACSO executive director, said: 

“Frankly, it’s carnage in our courts; the government should be hanging its head in shame, not least because yesterday it announced a £500m real-terms cut in the MoJ Budget for 2024-2025, which means today’s dire numbers are only going to get worse.”

Mr Maxwell Scott noted: “Even the MoJ's own statistician points out that court delays are the worst they have been since they began publishing the data in 2009. The average time for a case to come to court is 55.8 weeks against 55.6 in the previous quarter for small claims and a remarkable 85.7 weeks, way up on the 76.4 for the previous quarter, for fast/multi track claims. The two-month increase in fast/multi track delays is shocking as these are high-value cases that impact people’s lives severely."

He added that over the course of the whole of last year (December 2022 - December 2023), court delays increased by 4.1 weeks and 7.0 weeks for minor claims and fast/multi track claims respectively.

He said: "For injured people, or small businesses trying to obtain judgments against people or companies that haven’t paid their bills, they should expect to wait for at least a year before a judge will hear the case, and more than 18 months for serious claims.

"That is over a year wasted, making it harder for claimants to get on with their lives post-injury, meaning companies struggling to run their businesses and consumer confidence in the court system in danger of collapse."

Mr Maxwell Scott warned of more problems emerging in civil justice next year, with the number of claims logged now rising while government spending on justice is due to fall.

“Although the numbers of cases actually coming to court continues to fall, the number of claims lodged with HMCTS is rising again, up by 11 per cent to 402,000 on the same period in 2022, underlining just how awful the delays are.

"With the cost-of-living crisis still upon us, claimants - injured and often vulnerable people and small businesses - will continue to need the ultimate sanction of the courts to get redress. Have ministers just given up on civil justice? These statistics suggest they have.”