The MOJ has come up with the idea that extending the Court day is going to make things better for Court users, while this wont directly affect my area of law it seems, nonetheless it does seem that the Court service has entirely missed the point.
The Courts are already stretched, they are generally 8 weeks plus behind with their post, every Court ive spoken to has said “were in arrears with our post” and this it seems is due to a lack of staff, cuts and staff leaving without being replaced clearly is having an impact. So, before putting the Courts under more strain, perhaps it would be better to look at funding the system properly, employing enough staff so post isnt 8 weeks behind.
The system is rife with waste, i can give example upon example, like this:
Dealing with a possession claim, both parties agreed that the 5 minute hearing wasnt sufficient to deal with the issues, so both parties agreed directions to smoothly manage the case, after all isnt that our duty, isnt the overriding objective important? so the directions were filed 3 weeks before the hearing with a letter confirming the fee of £100 should be taken from the parties account.
The order was received, but you would think getting it before the Court would be easy? Afterall it would mean the Court could vacate the hearing, save time, cut costs, stop waste etc. We rang the Court 7 or 8 times over the three weeks, do you think we could get an answer? Hell no.
The Court had gone over to one of these hopeless contact centres, they knew nothing, they could tell us nothing, every time we asked questions the answer was “its not on the screen” and when we asked if we could call the Court direct, the computer said NO
So we get to the eve of the hearing, we call the Court, still no news. So we have two choices, send a barrister or solicitors agent, costing the parties money, or write to the Court advising of the urgency and asking for the order to go before a judge.
The clients instructions were not to waste money, seems sensible, so we wrote to the Court.
The consent order was not even on the Court file when the hearing took place, i find this out a week after when im trying to get an answer from the Court, an order was made but the Court have no idea what because its a contact centre and not the real court, and we find out that our order and letters were put before a judge two weeks after the hearing.
The wasted costs are considerable, if only the Court did what it was supposed to huh.
Another case, this one an appeal, with the same balls ups and wastage.
So, the appeal notice was filed out of time because the transcript was delayed, the Court allowed the extension for the Appeal notice so far so good. We get an order from the judge to file an appeal bundle, we do so, we comply strictly with the order.
We call the Court, again a poxy contact centre, and they say “oh yes the bundle was received, its been referred to the Judge, you will get an order shortly”
We breathe a sigh of relief, however it was very short lived, as we then get an order refusing permission to appeal, why? well because apparently we didnt file the bundle!!! yes, the bundle the Court confirmed it had, the bundle the Court confirmed it had referred to the judge!!
So firstly, our client had to apply to set the order aside, that cost £255, then there was the printing of a new bundle, then there was the application costs, all because the Court couldn’t co ordinate itself properly.
When ive spoken to the Courts, they are very clear, they lack the staff to be able to deal with everything they are being asked to do, and unless the MOJ get a grip of this and provide the resources the Courts need this is only going to get worst.
Extending the Court hours isnt going to help!!!