Surge in work for the county courts includes rise in personal injury claims

County courts: getting busier

There was a big increase in all kinds of work at the county courts in the first quarter of this year, according to new figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The rise was driven mainly by specified money claims, which were up by 22%, but personal injury cases, which make up 95% of unspecified claims, were also up by 10%.

Over half a million (508,700) claims were lodged at the county courts in the first quarter of 2017, the highest figure since 2009.

While cases allocated to the small claims track went up by 18%, those allocated to the fast-track went down by 4% and multi-track by 9%.

Despite concerns over the number of litigants in person, the quarterly statistical update issued by the MoJ said that where claims were defended, 56% had legal representation for both claimant and defendant, and 3% where only the defendant had legal representation – both down one percentage point from the same period in 2016.

A total of 15,800 claims went to trial in the first quarter of 2017, the highest figure since the beginning of 2010. Seven in ten cases going to trial were small claims.

The number of judgments issued at county court level was up by over a third (35%) at 336,900, the great majority of which (87%) were judgments in default.

A total of 1,100 judicial review applications were received in the first quarter of the year, according to the MoJ, a decline of 3% on the previous period in 2016.

The rest of the figures in the report – relating to judicial reviews and the senior courts – were for the whole of 2016, rather than the first quarter of 2017.

The Home Office was the organisation facing the most judicial reviews in 2016, with 1,832 applications, a rise of 18%. Only 12% were granted permission to proceed to a final hearing and, of them, just 12 were successful.

Claimants did slightly better against local authorities, with 33 findings in favour out of the 228 granted permission to go all the way. Councils faced 762 applications for judicial review.

Compared to the Home Office, the MoJ had a very encouraging 2016, with a fall of almost a third (32%) in the number of applications to 1,152. No details were given of how many of the JRs were successful.

The Supreme Court had a quieter 2016 than the year before, with applications falling by 32 to 210. The MoJ said this was “driven by a reduction in applications to the Civil Court of Appeal”, where 200 appeals were disposed of, compared to 233 the year before.

In the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court, where personal injury actions accounted for 38% of proceedings in 2016, there was a 15% decline last year in proceedings started.

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