Pandemic drives up backlog at South Shields County Court
Small claims cases are taking six weeks longer on average to go to trial in South Tyneside than in the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
The Law Society says that delays across the civil justice system risk discouraging people from pursuing claims – potentially leaving little incentive for unscrupulous people to comply with the law.
Ministry of Justice figures show the average time taken for small claims to go to trial at South Shields County Court was 37 weeks between January and March - an increase on the average of 31 weeks over the same period in 2020.
Small claims are often used by people seeking their money back if something has gone wrong on a deal or purchase and are largely used to claim less than £10,000.
Nationally the average time taken for small claims to go to trial rose to 51 weeks at the start of the year – almost three months longer than between January and March 2020.
Stephanie Boyce, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “There is a risk that people may be put off pursuing claims, which carries with it a longer-term risk of a belief that there is little chance of people effectively enforcing their rights little incentive for more unscrupulous people to comply with their legal obligations.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We are working tirelessly to tackle the impact of the pandemic, investing over £100m to reduce waiting times, opening new courtrooms, hiring more staff, and using out-of-court dispute resolution to ensure cases are heard swiftly."