By: 11 September 2023
“Justice delayed is justice denied”: ACSO launches campaign to reduce civil justice logjams

The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) has launched a campaign aimed at addressing the long-standing issue of delays within the UK’s civil justice system. 

ACSO’s new campaign seeks to bring attention to critical concerns about access to justice and the overall inefficiency of the system. 

The challenge of delay 

Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, small claims took an average of 38.1 weeks to reach trial, while multi/fast track claims clocked in at 59.4 weeks. The most recent data reflects a disconcerting reality, with small claims now averaging 51.9 weeks and multi/fast track claims an astonishing 79.9 weeks. Even tribunals have not escaped this crisis, with average wait times escalating from 30 weeks in 2019 to 45 weeks in 2021. 

ACSO, in collaboration with Express Solicitors, conducted a comprehensive study which revealed an average waiting period of 353 days for a case to be heard in court. Certain courts experienced worse delays: Dartford is running at 829 days. The best performer, with delays of 79 days, is Blackpool.  

The South East is the worst performing region with an average wait of 462 days, while the North East is the best with an average wait of 251 days. 

Root causes under the spotlight 

ASCO has outlined numerous problems including budgetary constraints; challenges in modernisation; lack of focus on civil justice; infrastructure concerns like deteriorating buildings; legal aid cuts; and administrative hurdles as causes for delays. 

Matthew Maxwell Scott, ACSO’s executive director, said, “There is a long history of reduced budgets and a misunderstanding of the sector, and the consequences of reforms imposed on it that has led to this parlous state for our civil justice system. As a result, the UK has fallen from 13th to 20th in the World Justice Project’s ranking of countries with the most accessible and affordable civil justice.” 

Rallying call 

The ASCO is calling for increased government focus; diverse dispute resolution modules; transparency; collaboration; and setting tangible targets. The organisation argue this will ease pressure on the system and tackle the logjam. 

Maxwell Scott said: “We often feel that ministers and officials somehow sees us as the opposition, but we all want the same thing: a better deal for taxpayers. 

“The new Justice Secretary needs to get to grips with this issue urgently; if he wants to make the biggest positive difference to the greatest number of people, improving access to justice for the thousands of consumers stuck in legal limbo would go a long way to restoring confidence in our courts.” 

The Association of Consumer Support Organisations was established as a not-for-profit membership body in January 2019 to represent the interests of consumers in the UK’s civil justice system. 

Image: Canva 
Josie Miller
Josie is an editor for Claims Media. She welcomes feedback, comments, and opinion at josie.miller@barkerbrooks.co.uk