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.

We are 12 months on from when we carried out the original analysis of the court delays data and it is not surprising that the figures have not improved. The Government is still blaming Covid-19 for the delays but the fact remains that the system was failing even before the virus struck.

With crumbling courts and judicial appointments not staying on par with judicial retirements they were always chasing delays. By comparison, the Criminal justice system has had a couple of badly needed injections of cash to tackle the delays there, but sadly the Civil courts are still waiting for the small measures taken to have an effect. These measures include the increased recruitment drive for Civil Judges and implementing digital platforms, which receive regular criticism as to their fitness for purpose.

We understand that it is highly unlikely that any cash will be available to speed up the process in the Civil Courts. For now our clients have little choice but to wait for their date at Court and then cross their fingers that it does not get postponed at the eleventh hour for want of judicial availability.

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:

Court 2023 Average Delay (Days) 2022 Average Delay (Days) Difference
Dartford 829 0
Medway 823 0
Southend 818 0
Weston-Super-Mare 680 240 440
Lewes 679 0
Basingstoke 630 0
Maidstone 599 0
Canterbury 574 0
Burnley 531 191 340
Ipswich 526 0
Edmonton 524 0
Hastings 501 0
Oxford 498 288 210
Thanet 461 456 5
Bromley 458 0
Walsall 453 0
Reading 448 424 24
Lincoln 418 0
Dudley 411 0
Watford 407 326 81
Norwich 402 297 105
Newport 391 0
London Central** 389 360 29
Clerkenwell & Shoreditch County Court 385 199 186
St Helens 381 0
Swindon 380 0
High Wycombe 374 0
Luton 373 0
Chelmsford 368 426 -58
Bodmin 357 195 162
Coventry 354 0
Birmingham 353 264 89
Hertford 347 0
Boston 346 0
Manchester (inc CCMOC) 343 359 -16
Salisbury 343 0
Milton Keynes 340 265 75
Leicester 336 269 67
Cambridge 335 0
Portsmouth 331 0
Guildford 323 0
Stoke 323 246 77
Horsham 322 0
Wrexham 319 0
Southampton 317 0
Basildon 315 0
Nuneaton 315 0
Nottingham 314 456 -142
Peterborough 305 0
Slough 305 0
Wigan 304 0
Worthing 304 0
Bristol 302 246 56
Chesterfield 299 0
Northampton 297 374 -77
Huddersfield 291 0
Staines 288 0
Leeds 279 229 50
Swansea 275 0
Torquay 275 231 44
Chester 275 0
Newcastle 271 243 28
Middlesbrough 268 0
Crewe 266 0
Telford 266 0
Hull 265 0
Cardiff 263 277 -14
Brighton 258 246 12
Bedford 254 0
Plymouth 254 167 87
Gateshead 253 0
Truro 251 0
Derby 250 0
Yeovil 249 0
Taunton 249 0
Liverpool 246 0
Harrogate 243 0
Doncaster 241 0
Preston 239 173 66
Gloucester 238 0
Caernarfon 236 0
Stafford 235 0
Aldershot 232 232 0
Birkenhead 231 0
Sunderland 230 0
York 230 0
Sheffield 229 237 -9
Bradford 220 168 52
Stockport 218 218 0
Darlington 208 0
Bournemouth 207 394 -187
Carlisle 207 0
Uxbridge 199 0
Winchester 196 0
Worcester County Court 196 238 -42
Exeter 192 252 -60
Barnstaple 181 183 -2
Haverfordwest 157 0
Barnsley 147 0
Willesden 141 0
Blackwood 134 0
Mansfield 129 0
Carmarthen 124 0
Wolverhampton 88 0
Blackpool 79 0
Warwick County Court 236 0
Royal Courts of Justice 212 0
Romford County Court 276 0
Hereford County Court 201 0
Durham County Court 377 0
Aberystwyth Justice Centre 182 0

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.