The spoils of thousands of court battles - amounting to more than ?33 million and dating back in some cases to the 18th century - remain unclaimed, it has been revealed.
And according to a damning report by the National Audit Office (NAO), records fail to identify the rightful owners of nearly ?10 million worth of funds.
The funds - managed by the Court Funds Office (CFO) - includes cash paid into court to cover costs and winnings arising from litigation, both modern and ancient.
The report, which was presented to Parliament by the head of the CFO, Sir John Bourn, says that in an index of 10,000 pages of 73,000 entries, many were meaningless and "do not facilitate a search by a potential claimant". The report says: "Many of the balances have only been added to the account in the last 25 years and more of them might be claimed if they were easier to find."
The NAO refused to approve the accounts for the second year running and Sir John called for legislation to help remedy the situation.