Increase in time taken for small claims to reach county court
The average time taken for civil claims to reach the county court increased between Q3 2019 to Q3 2021, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). This is despite the number of county court claims falling by 27% to 404,000 over the same period.
It took an average of 50.7 weeks between a small claim being issued and going to trial in Q3 2021, which is 12 weeks longer than in Q3 2019. For multi and fast track claims, litigants waited an average of 70 weeks for a trial, which is 11 weeks longer than in 2019.
According to the MoJ, small claims are less suited to remote hearings and have therefore been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 restrictions. In addition, measures introduced to help with the backlog are not counted in timeliness calculations when successful. These include small claims mediation, where claims are re-referred to mediation, and early neutral evaluation, where a judge will try to ‘engineer agreement’ without any finding on the fact.
The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) has called for the MoJ to give urgent attention to reducing delays in the civil justice system. ACSO believes that ministers cannot just blame the pandemic, as court delays had already reached a ‘tipping point’ before Covid.
The Chair of the Justice Committee has also criticised the Government for failing to prioritise civil justice and identified various challenges facing the system, including low pay and unreliable technology. Contact us for advice.