Justice budget cuts likely to make slow Court process even worse
In short, yes. Whilst I think that High Court claims won’t be hit the hardest, they will not escape the effect of the far-reaching budget cuts, and the County Court system dealing with lower value claims may well grind to a halt.
£2 billion is being cut from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) budget, and whilst I understand that it will be necessary to streamline services in line with other departments, making such savage cuts to the justice budget could be dangerous. Those who work in the industry have already seen the effect of the cuts made in the last three years by the department, meaning 1,000 jobs have already been lost in an effort to reduce the budget by £1 billion. Now a further £2 billion must be saved, this is the equivalent to the current cost of the whole prison system.
In London, the likely closures of some county courts has already been announced. Anybody who has ever tried to contact a county court by telephone will know that they are completely over-stretched as it is. Very often court clerks need to attend courts in person just to ensure that a matter is dealt with. Administrative errors leading to necessary court hearings that should have been adjourned, and long delays in claims. A trend of outsourcing important steps in bringing a civil claim. Court staff who must be over-worked with a low morale over an uncertain future. All of these problems only go to increase costs in civil claims. The closure of courts will only go to increase delays and the costs further.
Who pays for these increased costs? In clinical negligence claims very often the burden of these extra costs is likely to fall on the NHS. So, onto another government budget. Would it not save money in the long run to ensure the court system is efficient, or at the very least, remains in working order? Before now, it seemed over-stretched and badly in need of further investment, and now these cuts are going to push the whole system to breaking point.
Suzanne is a Partner and is head of the clinical negligence department.