Complaints continue to pour in about the new centralised facility for handling civil claims, with under two weeks to go before the centre is set to become fully operational.
A solicitor told the Gazette he was still ‘reeling from the nightmare’ of dealing with the County Court Money Claims Centre in Salford (pictured) and predicted it will be ‘inundated’ with out-of-time claims giving rise to satellite litigation. Another said she has been left ‘demented’ with frustration.
The centre is due to take responsibility for the issuing and billing of all civil claims from 19 March. HM Courts and Tribunals Service said it is currently processing new claims within 48 hours and clearing 95% of all of its work within five working days.
However Emma Norton, solicitor at human rights campaigner Liberty, said: ‘They lost my original claim form and then lost the replacement that I sent them by recorded delivery.’ Norton told the Gazette that when she asked for a member of staff to call her, she was told the SBC ‘does not have the facility to make external calls’. She added: ‘I am - I must admit - feeling slightly demented.’
Personal injury partner David Thornley, of Lincolnshire firm Ringrose Law, said: ‘They even managed to lose my letter of complaint, which defies belief. I’m still reeling from the nightmare, but at least I’ve now had an apology - from Lincoln County Court, not from SBC.’
Keith Etherington, Law Society council member for civil litigation, warned of delays in commissioning the centre’s new facility for handling electronic payments on account. ‘I am told it is in the late stages of the piloting process and should be rolled out over the spring or summer. Until then, cheques must be used as normal.’
An HMCTS spokesman said the management at Salford ‘is committed to learning from errors and continuously improving systems and processes. A key part of this process is understanding and responding to the feedback of the legal profession and other users’.
A new contact centre will deal with queries relating to money claims from 19 March. The Society’s civil justice committee is seeking feedback about solicitors’ experiences.
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