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Access to justice is slow going

Posted on 13th December 2017

The Law Gazette confirmed yesterday what all practitioners have felt for a while now – claims are taking longer.

Apparently we have hit a 10 year high – 560 claims were issued from July to September 2017. The average time for a claim in the fast/multi track from issue to trial is now 56.5 weeks.

This is no surprise to me with the number of courts closing, the boom of litigants in person acting (as there has been a cull of legal aid), and despite the increase in court fees.

I recently sent a claim to court on 19th October – it was in fact issued on 13th November, nearly 4 weeks later; my opponent queried the time lapse, and I could only confirm I was just as mystified about the delay.

Court processing of a claim

I would typically advise a client that a claim will take 12 to 18 months and should be avoided at all costs.

You can no longer hand in paperwork at Central London County court over a counter – they now have a drop box. But in fact you are required to ring and make an appointment to attend with anything to be issued via the drop box.

Not only is there no counter, there is also now no direct phone service. You call a main number where you get routed to a call centre far, far away to someone who notes your enquiry and has to e-mail the relevant court in question. When no one gets back to you, you just repeat the process on a weekly basis.

Given that the court fees have risen, some to an eye watering £10,000 for a claim, I am not sure where all the extra fees raised are going to?

Job vacancies…

In the same issue, the Law Gazette also reported on how the HM Courts and Tribunals Service has advertised vacancies for 30 administrative officers and 6 administrative assistances, possibly to alleviate some to the pressures mentioned earlier.

As the arena of choice for dispute resolution, the UK courts must do better, especially post Brexit – justice simply takes too long to be served.

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