Lack of court resources undermines Woolf reforms

A lack of court resources was hindering access to justice, according to a survey of solicitors published last week. Nearly four out of 10 solicitors responding to a Law Society survey said that inefficient administration in court offices made an appreciable impact on their clients’ cases.

This year’s Woolf Questionnaire, dealing with the impact of the Civil Procedure Rules introduced back in 1999, was sent out to 200 solicitors asking about the effectiveness of civil justice reforms. It found the court system was being hampered by delays, lost files, late notification of trial dates, trial bundles not being updated and a failure to answer phones.

“There’s a real danger of the Woolf civil justice reforms being undermined by a lack of funding,” commented Janet Paraskeva, Law Society chief executive. “Solicitors are telling us that problems created by underfunding are increasing costs. Inevitably, this will have serious consequences for people on low incomes and could impede their ability to seek justice.”

A third of respondents claimed to have had clients who had been discouraged from pursuing claims because of high court costs.