Commentary on the latest MoJ civil justice stats:
Some comment from ACSO, after the latest MoJ Portal stats have been published by the Government.
Commenting on the latest statistics from the MoJ on Civil Justice in England and Wales, Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of ACSO, said: “Our civil justice system is used by the vast majority of citizens when they need to access the law, yet it has become a cinderella service after years of government cuts and ministers taking their eye off the ball. The latest data once again underline how badly justice has declined, a point noted in the latest World Justice Project report which found that the UK has slipped from 13th to 20th in the ranking of countries with the most accessible and affordable civil justice system.”
IE Note; Like many public sector departments, the MoJ never really seems to have got back to work at full speed after Covid. Backlogs have been difficult to clear in the NHS, DVLA, Passport Office and more, plus the strikes and pay disputes have also meant the public sector is slower to respond than ever. Like the roads, water supply or energy sector, there is little long term infrastructure planning going on. Technology alone cannot solve every complex civil claim, for asset damage or injury, people need professional advice and cannot navigate an arcane, sometimes deliberately obtuse, legal system on their own.
Turning to the data, Maxwell Scott highlighted that small claims are still taking around a year to reach court (51.9 weeks) and multi/fast track claims 79.9 weeks, an increase of 16 weeks on the same period last year for multi/fast track. Small claims delays are barely changed.
Maxwell Scott added: “Our own research conducted with Express Solicitors found that on average, it takes 353 days, almost a year, to wait for the court to hear a case, and the performance of some individual courts is shocking.Our data found that court delays in Dartford are running at 829 days, with the best performer being Blackpool with delays of 79 days. The South east is the worst performing region with an average wait of 462 days, while the North east is the best with an average wait of 251 days.
Concluding, he said: “The MoJ’s own statistics underline that there is a very long road ahead to rescue our civil justice system. What is so disappointing is that there is no clear strategy to resolve these issues, let alone published targets to bring delays down to an acceptable level. Where is the plan? We urge the MoJ to put more resources into reducing the backlog, including setting concrete targets to ensure there is accountability as well as clarity. Ministers have gone missing in recent years; we hope the new Justice Secretary makes this a top priority.”
The Q1 data for 2023 tells us that the average time in weeks from issue to trial for small claims and separately fast track/ multi track claims has increased again to 51.9 and 79.9 respectively. These two figures are the worst on record for the datasets we have since 2009.
The comparable average time in weeks from issue to trial for small claims and separately fast track/ multi track claims for 2019 (pre Covid) were 37.2 and 59.4 weeks respectively. This equates to a 40% longer claim duration for small track matters and 35& for fast track/multi track or an extra 14 weeks and 20 weeks respectively.
This is despite the total annual number of claims being submitted reducing from 2,029,258 in 2019 to 1,537,759 in 2022, which is a reduction of cc 500,000 or 24%.