Delays cause small claims to take almost a year to come to trial in Scarborough
The time taken for small claims cases to reach trial in Scarborough continued to rise during the coronavirus pandemic, figures reveal.
With cases across England and Wales taking an average of nearly a year to reach court, professional body the Law Society said “justice delayed is justice denied”.
It has called on the Government to increase court capacity and ensure judges can conduct remote hearings when necessary.
A small claim took 47 weeks on average to go to trial at Scarborough County Court in the three months to December, Ministry of Justice figures show.
That was well up from 34 weeks during the previous three months and 25 weeks between April and June.
It was also significantly longer than the average of 31 weeks during the same period in 2019.
People use small claims to get compensation or money back for a faulty product or poor service. They are usually made for no more than £10,000.
Across England and Wales, the average time for a case to reach court hit 51 weeks in the three months to December, up from 49 the previous three months and 37 weeks during the same period a year earlier.
The MoJ said some claims were being dealt with through mediation and other methods to help with the backlog caused by Covid-19, which meant a higher proportion of more complex cases requiring more time were going to trial.
But the Law Society said years of cuts and underfunding have led to progressively worse delays across the justice system, even before the virus affected the courts.
“These backlogs have been markedly exacerbated by the pandemic and the need for social distancing to ensure the safety of all court users,” said the society’s president David Greene.
“A year is far too long to wait to resolve a so-called small claim, which may represent a significant issue for the claimant. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
The group is urging the Government to open extra "Nightingale courts" – temporary courts opened during the pandemic – to allow more hearings to take place safely, and to ensure the judiciary can conduct hearings remotely when needed.
There were 20 small claims trials at Scarborough County Court between October and December, up from 15 the previous three months but down from 32 during the same period in 2019.
The number of cases across England and Wales rose to 9,800, although this was still well below 12,500 a year earlier.
An MoJ spokesman said: “We are taking a range of steps to tackle the impact of the pandemic – investing millions to deliver speedier justice, prioritising urgent cases and opening extra courtrooms so cases can be heard as quickly as possible.”