’Claims data shows the situation is worsening and not improving,’ says chair of Justice Committee

The Justice Committee has launched an inquiry into delays at the County Court as data revealed that the time taken from claim to hearing is on the rise.

In a statement released today (26 October 2023), the Justice Committee said it wanted to examine how courts were working due to concerns about capacity and resources.

It came after data showed that the average time for claims cases to go to trial increased during Q2 2023.

According to the Civil Justice Statistics report, which was published on 7 September 2023, the average time taken for small claims and multi/fast track claims to go to trial was 52.3 and 78.2 weeks.

This was 15.7 and 19.1 weeks longer compared to 2019.

“Claims data shows the situation is worsening, not improving, and it’s right the committee examines this deterioration and takes evidence from those impacted by delays, staffing levels, access, as well as other issues,” Sir Bob Neill, chair of the Justice Committee, said.

’Long-standing concerns’

This came despite the cross-party committee of MPs calling on the Government to provide the “resources to ensure that the County Court has the capacity to deal with cases in a timely fashion”.

The report, which was published in 2022, also urged the Government to set out what steps it was taking to reduce delays in the County Court and to improve judicial, physical, digital and staff capacity.

During the inquiry, the committee will take evidence from both claimant and defendant firms, a range of representative bodies and the Civil Justice minister Lord Bellamy KC.

“The Justice Committee has held long-standing concerns over the resourcing and capacity of the County Court and made strong recommendations to this effect in its 2022 report,” Neill said.

“The work of the County Court shouldn’t be the Cinderella of the justice system. It affects a significant proportion of the public, who rely on it to deliver justice.

“If it doesn’t have the resources it needs to function effectively, then it will have a real impact on people’s lives, as well as on the economy.”


It came after the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (Acso) started a new campaign to reduce delays in the civil justice system in September.

Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of Acso, said it was “good that the committee has again responded to our pleas for an independent inquiry into one of the major issues facing civil justice”.

He added that research the firm had done with Express Solicitors revealed a “postcode lottery” for consumers seeking justice.

The two firms found that while average waits were 353 days, it took 251 days in the best-performing areas compared to 462 in the worst.

“We’ve already urged the committee to ask experienced practitioners at the coalface why this is and seek their help to set out sensible ideas for tackling the backlogs, be this through targeted extra resources, better use of digital modernisation or more alternative dispute resolution, where appropriate,” Maxwell Scott said.

“Access to justice delayed is access to justice denied and it is only right that the Justice Committee reminds ministers of this.

“Looking ahead, this inquiry should be a stepping stone to a full-scale commission on civil justice with the needs of consumers as its heart.”