The number of civil court judgments leapt by 25% last year as more claims went undefended, official statistics have revealed.
Quarterly figures for the final three months of 2014, published by the Ministry of Justice, show that county courts in England and Wales made 829,000 judgments in civil cases (excluding family) in 2014.
This figure includes 196,000 in the final quarter (15% up on the same period in 2013). The increase was attributed to an increase in claims and a fall in claims being defended – leading to an increase in default judgments.
The number of claims slowly declined between 2006 and 2012, falling annually from 2.1m to 1.4m, but in 2013 there was a slight increase and by 2014 the number was back up to 1.6m.
In the final three months of 2014, just 46,142 defences were made, a fall of 18% on the same period in 2013. It is estimated that around 12% of claims issued between October and December 2014 will be defended.
Over the longer term, the annual number of defences continues to fall, from a peak of 340,000 in 2007 to 189,000 in 2014.
Defended cases which are not settled or withdrawn generally result in a small claim trial. In total, there were 10,737 trials in October to December 2014, 3% more than in the same quarter in 2013.
The MoJ reported that in 2014, both the claimant and defendant had legal representation in 71% of defences, compared to 65% in 2013. Neither party had legal representation in 14% of defences.
However, the number of parties without representation increased significantly when specified money claims were removed from the figures.
In mortgage and landlord possession cases, half featured both parties with neither side represented. In unspecified money claims, both parties were unrepresented 26% of the time.
Cases took an average of 59 weeks between a fast- or multi-track claim being issued and the claim going to trial, compared with 60 weeks in the same period in 2013.
Amid ongoing controversy about government reforms of judicial review, figures show that in 2014 some 4,062 JR applications were lodged. This was a quarter of the number lodged in 2013 - a fall accounted for by the fact that most immigration and asylum JRs are now dealt with by the Upper Tribunal for Immigration and Asylum Chamber.
Excluding immigration cases, the number of other civil JR applications fell, from 2,191 in 2013 to 1,902 last year. Criminal JRs reached an all-time low of 268 cases in 2014 – down from the 2012 peak of 384.
In 2000 85% of judicial reviews lodged reached the permission stage and 29% were granted permission to proceed. These proportions fell over time to an all-time low in 2013 of 54% reaching permission stage and 9% being granted permission to proceed.
In 2014 the number granted permission to proceed rose slightly, to 14%.