Delay can defeat justice – but so can undue haste.

Magna Carta’s striking phrase, ‘To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice,’ shows few signs of wear and tear from its 800 years of near constant use. But what is currently under unexpected stress is the inter-relationship between the aims on ‘delay’ and ‘justice’ – previously assumed to be co-dependent.

Lord Dyson, speaking at the Law Society last week, noted the twin threats of justice that is ‘snail’s pace’ or ‘speedy’.

Resolution of this issue is imperative. As retired district judge Paul Waterworth reflects, the pressure for greater speed in family law cases, which ‘demands there must be an outcome sooner rather than later’, raises a question: what to do if ‘later is the fair thing to do’?

With the justice system’s acute funding shortage set to continue, managed decline of the system will surely result in speed and justice competing.

Is there another way? Possibly. Many European intellectual property disputes seek resolution in the German courts. German IP decisions have an effect because the outcome is the same as for more elaborate, expensive and strung-out proceedings in other jurisdictions. A losing party takes note.

Unless we can ape that dual focus on speed and justice, an unfortunate conflict between the two is set to intensify.