Are our courts fit for purpose?

Delays and cancellations in crumbling court buildings are leaving clients in limbo and denied access to justice, with their time and costs wasted.

We asked over 500 solicitors about their experiences in courts and tribunals.

Around two-thirds (64%) of respondents had experienced delays in cases being heard within the past 12 months, due to the state of the court.

Over 30% did not feel physically safe while attending court and 28% told us the courts were “not at all fit” for purpose.

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What is not working

Many solicitors flagged the poor condition of court buildings, due to lack of investment.

Commonly cited issues include:

Common technology issues include:

  • unreliable wifi / connection problems
  • trouble logging into the system with double-factor authentication
  • glitches playing media
  • lack of consultation about introducing new tech

When asked about poor experiences, the five most mentioned courts were:

  • Snaresbrook Crown Court
  • Birmingham Magistrates Court
  • Isleworth Crown Court
  • High Wycombe
  • Central Family Court

To see responses for your local area, see the appendix in our report

Disabled court users being let down

Disabled court users are even less likely to feel physically secure or safe from harm while attending court.

This group were more likely to feel that the court’s physical building (37%) or the technology provided (27%) were not fit for purpose, compared to those without a condition (28% and 21% respectively).

What is working?

Positive court experiences tended to focus on court staff, both when there are adequate numbers working and with staff described as “friendly”, “helpful”, “efficient” and “experienced”.

Buildings more likely to receive positive feedback included:

  • modern or purpose-built courts and buildings that have benefited from significant investment
  • clean / well-maintained courts

How to clear the backlog?

In October 2022, there were 63,121 cases in the courts backlog.

To help clear this queue by allowing more sitting days and speeding up cases, solicitors suggested:

  • increasing staff numbers – from judges to admin support
  • reopening closed courts
I want to know more

Download the full report (PPTX 6.6 MB)

Read our five-point plan on how to fix the backlog

We’ve come up with some fresh ideas for practical, affordable changes to our civil justice system that will enhance access to justice and could save the system £72 million over a five-year period.

Explore our ideas and join the conversation

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