In yet another blow to Civil Justice, the Ministry of Justice has recently proposed the closure of 91 Courts and Tribunals across England and Wales. This includes 19 County Courts. The Governmental Minster, Shiailesh Vara is currently consulting on these closures with users and professionals. He has stated as follows:-
“The estate costs tax payers an estimated half a billion pounds each year and at present, it is under used. Last year over a third of all Court and Tribunals were empty for more than 50% of their available hearing time.”
This is yet another blow for the administration of Justice and for those attempting to deliver it to the public. Not only has the Government recently increased Court fees (which means that for many it is too expensive to litigate) they are now clamping down on the availability of Courts.
The reasoning behind this is difficult to understand other than one of financial gain. At the moment before the proposed cuts, some Courts are working to a backlog of at least four to five months in dealing with simple allocations as well in some cases straightforward correspondence. These delays impact on effectiveness of the administration of justice and are difficult to explain to lay clients.
An example of this is I issued and served proceedings last September out of the County Court Money Claims Centre, where all new cases now have to be issued. This case was finally transferred to the Central London County Court in April 2015. I now have a Case Management Conference listed for December 2015 over 15 months after issue. It is hard to see how the current delays are going to improve this situation and will probably make matters even worse. In my view this is another short sighted attempt by the Government to sell the Courts to make money at the cost of Justice. The MOJ has its eyes on the disposal value of the Court and Tribunal buildings estimated value of which is in the region of £35 million.
The work load for Courts in Civil cases has increased as the withdrawal of Legal Aid for Family and other Civil Matters means that there is an increase in Litigants in person. These invariably need to be spoon fed through the system and often clog up the Court process.
If you would like more information, speak to our Personal Injury Solicitor, Zahreen Hussain on 020 7998 7777 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.