The immediate aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic had a predictably massive effect on civil justice, with the number of claims dropping off a cliff across the board.
Statistics published today by the Ministry of Justice, covering the second quarter from April to June, show a significant decrease in civil justice activity linked to Covid-19. The figures not only suggest that some law firms will have faced the effective closure of income streams for several months, but also that there will now be a backlog of cases as restrictions ease.
From April to June, the 118,000 county court claims represented a fall of 75% compared with the same period in 2019. Personal injury claims were down 42% to 16,000, and judgments fell by 78% to 68,000. The vast majority (86%) of judgments that were made were default judgments.
Enforcement applications were down 83% and warrants issued decreased by 97%. The total of 1,400 judicial reviews in the first half of 2020 was down 17% on the same period in 2019. Mortgage and landlord possession claims were down 90% over the period, to 3,200.
The MoJ said that during the response to the pandemic, administrative and judicial resources were a ‘significant challenge’, with suspension of court operations leading to unprecedented falls in volumes. There was also a significant impact on timeliness of civil justice: the mean time taken for small claims to go to trial was 41.8 weeks – 5.2 weeks longer than in the second quarter of 2019. Multi and fast track claims took 61.9 weeks to reach trial, which was an increase of almost three weeks.
The MoJ said: ‘As society and the economy begins to recover from the impact of Covid-19, it is expected that claims volumes will return to historic trend levels, and may even temporarily exceed the pre-Cclaovid-19 volumes as the backlog of claims is processed.
‘We are working with representative bodies to understand the expected demand and will continue to monitor future trends in both volumes and timeliness.’
The number of civil claims defended was down 39% to 46,000 on the same quarter in 2019.
Of those claims defended, 65% had legal representation for both claimant and defendant, 16% had representation for claimant only, and 4% for defendant only.
The number of trials was down 72% to 4,200 compared to the same quarter in 2019.