Search Arc Legal Group



Civil courts are suffering considerable backlogs in cases coming to trial, or progress generally, which appears worse even than the immediate aftermath of Covid. There is concern the situation is “unlikely to improve” anytime soon, suggests Steve Beahan, Commercial Disputes Partner from our panel solicitor, Irwin Mitchell.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service statistics published in June 2023 shows the following backlogs:

  • Crown Court rose from 61,180 in March 2023 to 61,712 in April 2023, compared to 57,768 in April 2022
  • Magistrates’ Court rose from 337,367 in April 2022 to 347,769 in April 2023

The Law Society Gazette also shared some worrying statistics on the state of the UK’s civil courts last month:

  • Delays of up to 2 years and 3 months in some beleaguered courts
  • An average of 1 year (51.9 weeks) between a small claim being issued and the claim going to trial in January to March 2023, almost a week longer compared to the same quarter in 2022
  • Multi and fast-track claims taking around 79.9 weeks on average to go to trial, 6.3 weeks longer than January to March 2022

Various consumer groups have rightly voiced significant concerns about the state of play and the long wait times for individuals to receive the justice they deserve. The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) commented that the figures on small claims and fast/multi track claims represented the “worst on record” for the datasets available since 2009, this is despite the total annual number of claims being submitted reducing from 2,029,258 in 2019 to 1,537,759 in 2022 – a reduction of 500,000 or 24%.

Postcode lottery

Wait times appear to vary from court to court meaning that many claimants are facing a ‘postcode lottery’. For example: ACSO found court delays in Dartford running at 829 days, while in Blackpool delays were at 79 days. The South East is the worst-performing region with an average wait of 462 days, while the North East is the best with an average wait of 251 days.

These delays are not only stressful for claimants, but in some cases can be extremely costly for all parties.

No quick fix for court delays

These mounting delays are something we’re keeping a close eye on, alongside our panel solicitors, so that we can advise clients of the situation and help them to understand what they can expect once a claim is issued.

Steve Beahan from Irwin Mitchell commented further:

“We are of course managing customers’ expectations before issuing proceedings so that they are aware of the delays and timeframes as much as possible, but unfortunately there is no quick fix.

Rather than improving, we believe delays could potentially worsen in some areas, Central London is particularly vulnerable to these delays, for example. Legal proceedings should be seen as a last resource and parties should consider all methods of alternative dispute resolution.”

What are we doing?

At Arc Legal, we see the courts as a last resort and have always focused on pursuing alternative methods of dispute resolution, rather than taking a ‘litigate first’ approach. We believe in providing more legal assistance to our policyholders as soon as they experience a legal issue, to try to help them to resolve their problems before embarking on the road to litigation, which in this climate is likely to be long and complex.

For this reason, we provide several online tools to facilitate the provision of more practical, holistic support sooner, rather than the traditional Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) model of driving customers to instruct solicitors to litigate.

Our in-house Legal Assistance Helpline (LAH) is the first port of call for our policyholders and offers outcome-focused legal support, designed to provide practical advice and solutions to help resolve issues rather than just technical legal guidance. The LAH is available 24/7 and provides support on a range of personal and commercial legal issues.

Our Legal Assistance Portal (LAP) provides a wealth of information and guidance to our policyholders who want to find ways to avoid protracted legal disputes, from legal document templates to articles covering some of the most common legal queries we encounter, to an online chat facility; the LAP is a key resource for customers who prefer the digital approach rather than talking to one of our in-house legal experts by phone.

Though severe court delays look to be inevitable in the foreseeable future, we’re doing our best to support customers by giving them more options, helping to set expectations of what the journey to justice could look like.

To find out more about our products and services, please contact your Relationships Manager or email

In case you missed it..

Speak to an expert

We’re waiting to hear from you. Call, email or use our live chat service to find out how we can help you deliver market leading, tailored products and services to your customers.

0344 770 9000 Live chat