The Law Society of England and Wales has welcomed measures to tackle backlogs in the civil and family courts and tribunals services by recruiting hundreds of additional staff and boosting court capacity. While there has been progress in the family and civil courts, in late September there were more than 45,000 outstanding cases in the employment tribunals.
The stay on possession hearings was also lifted in September and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) are preparing for increased levels of demand in cases.
Law Society president David Greene said
“We welcome the steps HM Courts and Tribunals Service has taken to reduce case backlogs by maximising judicial sitting time, reopening courts where it is safe to do so and opening Nightingale courts. Plans to recruit additional extra staff to support the recovery are also good news. We also express our thanks to the court staff, lawyers, judges and others who have been working to keep the wheels of justice turning during the pandemic” .
“The growing case backlog in the employment tribunals and potential increase in possession hearing cases remain a huge concern – and could lead to justice being delayed for many already significantly affected by the pandemic.”
HMCTS’ recovery plan also includes proposals to boost court capacity through remote hearings and COVID operating hours.
Mr Greene went on to say:
“While remote hearings are an important tool during the pandemic and may work well for simple procedural issues, for more complex cases – such as contested family hearings – there will be no reasonable alternative to holding face-to-face hearings if justice is to be delivered”.
“Before making remote hearings permanent in any area of law, there must be more comprehensive data collection and consultation with both the legal profession and court users to ensure they would not impact on access to justice and on justice outcomes.
The full text of an update setting out the work being undertaken by HMCTS in the short and medium terms in response to coronavirus (COVID-19) entitled “Court and tribunal recovery update in response to coronavirus” can be found on the GOV.UK website