Long term underfunding of courts around the UK has led to irretrievable delays. We explore the impact this has made to our clients’ lives while they wait for their cases to be resolved.

Court delays have been worsening for several years. Local courts have been left to crumble and eventually close, forcing clients to travel further to attend a court that is still in operation and putting those remaining courts under further strain as they are allocated more and more claims to deal with.

Clients may be surprised to learn that even before the pandemic struck, the time taken for a standard claim to reach a final hearing had slipped by at least an extra three months when compared to the previous year. This is according to government statistics. These delays cannot be blamed purely on Covid-19.

The result of the year on year increase in court delays is a massive disruption to the UK justice system. The backlogs are holding up thousands of cases and making claimants feel helpless. New figures released by ACSO, based on our analysis, show that having your case seen by a Judge within a reasonable timeframe has become a postcode lottery, with some county courts taking twice as long as others to resolve a case. This cannot be right.

Several news outlets have already published articles on the court delay data we examined, and we’ve produced the full list of County Courts and their respective typical delays in days in the table below:

Ranking Court Name Average Delay (Days)
1 Thanet County Court 456
2 Chelmsford County & Family Court 426
3 Reading County Court 424
4 Bournemouth & Poole County Court 394
5 Durham County Court 377
6 Northampton County Court 374
7 Central London County Court 360
8 Nottingham County Court 456
9 Manchester Civil Justice Centre 359
10 Watford 326
11 Norwich Combined Court 297
12 Oxford County Court 288
13 Cardiff Civil Justice Centre 277
14 Romford County Court 276
15 Leicester County Court 269
16 Milton Keynes 265
17 Birmingham Civil Justice Centre 264
18 Exeter Combined Court Centre 252
19 Brighton County & Family Court 246
20 Stoke-on-Trent Combined Court 246
21 Bristol Civil & Family Justice Centre 246
22 Newcastle Upon Tyne Combined Court Centre 243
23 Weston-Super-Mare County Court 240
24 Worcester County Court 238
25 Sheffield County Court 237
26 Warwick County Court 236
27 Aldershot Justice Centre 232
28 Torquay & Newton Abbot County Court 231
29 Leeds Combined Court Centre 229
30 Stockport County Court 218
31 Royal Courts of Justice 212
32 Hereford County Court 201
33 Clerkenwell & Shoreditch County Court 199
34 Bodmin County Court 195
35 Burnley Combined Court Centre 191
36 Barnstaple County Court 183
37 Aberystwyth Justice Centre 182
38 Preston Combined Court 173
39 Bradford Combined Court Centre 168
40 Plymouth Combined Court 167

 

In order to assess the impact this continues to have on individuals, Express Solicitors approached some of our clients to see how the delays have affected them personally, and what consequences this is having on their lives.

No light at the end of the tunnel

In 2020, our client Jonathan Shaer of Middlesex, suffered from an accident whilst attempting to enter an Uber – resulting in multiple injuries, which temporarily prevented him from working and required him to make several hospital visits.

Since the incident, Jonathan has been given multiple dates to attend at Uxbridge Court, all of which cancelled and postponed. When asked to give a comment, he said:

“It’s outrageous, the incident happened in 2019, and it’s now 2022 it wasn’t a complex issue in the grand scheme of things. There were multiple delays and even the rescheduling was 9 months away, I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel and am dreading the date to be told that’s been delayed as well. How long should it take for a case to be brought?

I can’t even fathom had there been multiple parties involved or true complexities how long that would take. This is my first experience of a case like this and don’t know if it’s typical or not but it’s definitely reflective of a broken judicial system.”

Adding extra pressure to a stressful experience

Two of our clients, Sam Bishop and Charlie Hayden have both been let down by Chelmsford County Court in Essex. With an average waiting time of 426 days per case, it has been ranked as the second worst in the country, only beaten by Thanet County Court which has an average waiting time of 456 days.

Charlie Hayden from Epping suffered both physical and psychological injuries following a car collision he was not responsible for, which occurred while he was stationary in his vehicle. He has been waiting for several years for the case to be resolved.

Express Solicitors contacted Charlie for a comment and he explained to us that the court delays have added additional pressure to a situation which was already causing him a great deal of stress. He said:

“It’s been over three years now, it’s not good enough. I suffer with anxiety and this hasn’t helped in the slightest. It’s been very stressful waiting for it to be sorted even though the accident wasn’t my fault. The case got delayed and was pushed back four times, all I want is closure now.”

Unfortunately Charlie is not alone. Sam Bishop, also from Essex, has had his case repeatedly postponed, causing stress and inconvenience.

Sam suffered injuries following a car collision, which required him to take time off of work and attend physiotherapy. When asked to give a comment about the court delays he said:

“It’s become very annoying and frustrating, I don’t understand how or why it’s happening. I’ve been taking days off to book the court date in and it’s not going through. It’s been about three years and I’ve been left very frustrated.”

Another client, Tony Chaikin from Romford suffered injuries to his neck and one of his knees following a car crash.

The case which has lasted several years has been repeatedly pushed back by Romford court, which has an average wait of 276 days, making it the 14th worst in the country. When we reached out to Tony to speak about his ordeal, he expressed his frustrations:

“It’s a hinderance, it’s an annoyance and it’s stressful. You’re getting prepared and literally at the last minute they cancel – quite literally the day before, it’s ridiculous! I’ve been booking days off work and having to cancel at the last minute, making me seem unreliable and putting a strain on relationships. This has been dragging on for nearly five years!”

Unfortunately these client’s stories aren’t unique and they represent an ever growing number of claimants whose lives are placed on hold by court delays.

Despite our clients having different types of cases, they have all seen disruptions to their personal and professional lives, particularly as sometimes their hearings are cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice, which inevitably has an impact on their mental well-being and can cause a strain on relationships.

It is uncertain how long the delays will continue. The Ministry of Justice have in the wake of the report promised to increase spending to try and tackle the delays. But with many courts reporting huge backlogs and the time quoted recently by Brighton county court to respond to a simple letter to the court at around 22 weeks it is clear that radical changes need to be made to resolve this momentous issue.