Claims by a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) minister that possession case delays are being addressed have been questioned by leading evictions specialist Landlord Action.
In response to a question from Conservative MP Theresa Villiers, MoJ Parliamentary Under Secretary of State James Cartlidge revealed that both his department and HM Courts and Tribunals Services had introduced efficiencies to address the delays.
This includes the increased use of Warrant of Control Support Centres to reduce the administrative tasks undertaken by bailiffs.
“This has, and will, free up bailiff resources to focus on other enforcement activity which includes the enforcement of possession orders,” Cartlidge said.
Cartlidge also claimed that the most recent MoJ eviction figures reveal ‘a consistent improvement in timeliness since the enforcement restrictions lifted [at the end of June last year], enabling bailiffs once again to undertake enforcement activity’.
But addressing his latter point, Landlord Action’s Paul Sowerbutts (pictured) says his staff report that although some courts are speeding up, those in London ‘are not’.
“Stratford Housing centre says it still has a 14-week backlog and Milton Keynes court is so overwhelmed with work it is outsourcing to Oxford County Court,” he says.
“Bromley is also overwhelmed and using various other places like Bexley Magistrates Court to hold possession hearings. Central London County Court is also super slow.
“Possession Orders are taking weeks to be typed up, the London Bailiff Contact Centre will not process a warrant until they have a physical PO, even if the order expired a month ago, so that affects a number of London courts as they have not typed one up due to whatever reason that may be.
“Hearings are being listed and results are coming through, however, enforcement is impossible at present, in London anyway due to no typed up orders.”
The comments echo those by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, who told a House of Lords enquiry yesterday that all of the jurisdictions were ‘under pressure’ and that ‘overall we have problems… due to ‘capacity issues’.