Just days after the government revealed it was not scrapping Section 21 until court possession processes had been overhauled, so the all-party Justice Select Committee has order a new inquiry into the workings of the County Court.
It comes as data on the work of the County Court shows the time taken from claim to hearing continues to rise.
In its 2022 report, the cross-party committee of MPs called 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 also urged the government to set out what steps it is taking to reduce delays in the County Court and to improve the judicial, physical, digital and staff capacity of the County Court.
But the Civil Justice Statistics Quarterly for April to June 2023, published recently, shows the average time taken for small claims and multi/fast track claims to go to trial was 52.3 weeks and 78.2 weeks - one week longer and 2.8 weeks longer respectively, than the same period in 2022.
Compared to 2019, these measures are 15.7 weeks longer for small claims and 19.1 weeks longer for multi/fast track claims.
In September this year the Association of Consumer Support Organisations started a new campaign to reduce delays in the civil justice system.
During the inquiry, the Committee will take evidence from both claimant and defendant firms, a range of representative bodies and NGOs, plus the Civil Justice minister Lord Bellamy KC.
Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill MP, says: “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.
“More than a year on, 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.
“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.”
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