For the first time, the regular quarterly court statistics show the average duration of civil and family cases at every County Court, and the duration of criminal cases at every Crown Court and local magistrates’ court group. This will enable the public to see how quickly cases are handled at their local court, and to compare it to other courts across England and Wales.
The new timeliness statistics showed that in July to September 2011, on average:
- Care proceedings took 55 weeks
- Hearings for small claims (under £5,000) in civil courts took place 30 weeks after the claim was originally made. The figure was 57 weeks for higher value cases, which are dealt with by a different process
- Criminal cases were completed 152 days after the offence.
Ministers have already committed to a series of reforms to speed up the justice process. Measures include improved technology, more use of mediation to solve civil and family disputes, and simplifying processes to reduce delays and frustration for victims and witnesses of crime.
Courts Minister Jonathan Djanogly said:
‘The figures released today show that sometimes the court process can simply be too time-consuming. That is why we have a comprehensive reform programme underway.
‘There are two ways we can solve this problem. Firstly, by giving more people the opportunity to take charge of resolving their own disputes through mediation, rather than using lawyers and a judge. This can be quicker and less stressful for all parties, especially where children are involved.
‘Secondly, by improving technology, processes and ways of working in the civil, family and criminal justice systems.
‘We will reduce the time it takes to get results. We have already made a key commitment that care proceedings will be completed by the courts within 6 months.’
The Government’s reform programme extends across the family, civil and criminal justice systems:
Family Justice Reforms
The Government-commissioned Family Justice Review was published by an independently chaired panel in 2011. It will form a key evidence base for reform of the family justice system. The Government has already committed to some of the Review’s recommendations including:
- We will introduce a 6 month time limit for care cases to be completed, so that the system provides the best service to those at the heart of the system - children
- We agree with the Panel’s strong focus on mediation for separating couples, as a more practical and amicable alternative to court, especially for children. We will be increasing funding for this by two thirds to £25 million a year.
The Government will publish its full response to the Family Justice Review shortly.
Civil Justice Reforms
In 2011 we published proposals for the first major overhaul of the civil justice system in 15 years. Among the wide-ranging measures in our consultation, we proposed to:
- give thousands more people the opportunity to consider telephone-based mediation as a simpler, quicker way to resolve their differences rather than going to court. Mediation can take about 5-6 weeks to arrange compared to 13-14 weeks for a court hearing
- double the small claims limit from £5,000 to £10,000 so that, if a case does have to go to court, thousands more cases can be dealt with without more formal - and lengthy and expensive - legal preparation
- improve technology - court forms will be sent electronically to centralised 21st century business centres for faster processing, leaving county courts and judges to concentrate on people attending court on the day.
Following our consultation, we will announce the next steps soon.
Criminal Justice Reforms
The government has committed to reform and re-energise the criminal justice system at a national and local level to reconnect with victims and local communities. This includes:
- abolishing unnecessary committal hearings for ‘either way’ crimes to help save thousands of hours of court time each year
- publishing justice outcomes and police actions on the national crime mapping website, www.police.uk, so that people can see what happens next after crimes are committed on their streets. This data will be published from May
- introducing video technology in the court process, including ‘Live Links’, so that police can give evidence from their local police station saving unnecessary time waiting at court and travel time
- working with a number of areas to test the approach of Neighbourhood Justice Panels to address low-level offending and anti-social behaviour.
Notes to Editors
The new data can be viewed on the Open Justice website at open.justice.gov.uk. At the website people can also learn about how the justice system works, play the role of judge in mock trials and see information about their local area.
For more information, please call the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536. Follow us on twitter @MoJGovUK.