County courts are to receive an extra £324 million over the next three years to help clear their case backlogs and both modernise and speed up court processes.
The settlement is part of the additional £2.2 billion given to the Ministry of Justice within Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Autumn Spending Review revealed this week.
“The pandemic created unprecedented challenges but this settlement is the largest increase in more than a decade for the justice system,” says Justice Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured).
“That means we can focus on building a better, more efficient, justice system for all.”
Of the extra £324 million, some £200 million is to be spent on upgrading the court system’s often clunky technology and move court processes to quicker and safe online platforms, all part of a £1.3 billion court reform programme.
The extra cash cannot come soon enough for landlords seeking to evict tenants, many of whom have faced huge delays and backlogs within the court system, problems that have intensified during the pandemic.
Michelle Heeley QC of No5 Barristers’ Chambers, who works on the Midlands circuit, says: “Although any move to increase funding and improve the criminal justice system is welcomed, this cannot be allowed to simply paper over the cracks. The backlog crisis started before the pandemic, which has merely exacerbated the situation.
“Over the last four years, there has been an 11% decrease in the number of junior barristers available for criminal cases, and a 22% reduction in the number of criminal QCs. This is a direct result of a lack of funding to ensure cases are being heard, which in turn limits the ability of the justice system to carry out its function.”
Paul Shamplina (pictured) of Landlord Action comments: “This is great news for landlords and I hope some of this extra cash will be spent on a major recruitment exercise to provide more judges and more bailiffs – shortages of which continue to delay possession cases for our landlord clients.
“There also needs to be bailiff reforms – High Court Sheriffs must be allowed to carry out more evictions.
“But let’s not forget that prior to Covid, there was a Housing Court working group and consultation, which was linked to the [now delayed] rent reform White Paper and the banning of Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions – this needs to be actioned too.
“It is essential that landlords have confidence in the evictions system and that they can gain possession of properties within a timely period when tenancies go wrong, otherwise more landlords will seek to exit the sector.”