The Administrative Court is facing a massive backlog of cases due to a shortage of specialist judges.
The court has brought in a number of non-specialists to help, but their lack of expertise is causing cases to drag on for longer than usual.
One leading silk told The Lawyer that he was being forced to provide longer hearing time schedules for non-specialist members of the judiciary.
“The shortage of specialist judges means we have to hear expert evidence on basic legal issues that should really be known to the judge,” said the silk. “This comes at a monetary cost and it’s even leading to the Judicial Studies Board putting ;on ;additional training to try to get judges up-to-speed on the law.”
11KBW joint senior clerk Lucy Barbet, who sits on the Administrative Court committee, admitted that the court was increasingly using judges who are not specialists in their field to try to cut the backlog of cases.
“There’s still a big backlog of cases and, although they need more reading and sitting time, bringing in more non-specialist judges is one way to deal with this,” said Barbet. “It’s got to be better than having a massive backlog for specialists that could take years to clear.”
Between 2002 and 2007 the number of cases lodged in the Administrative Court almost doubled, from 6,257 to 11,715. Court figures point to the workload increasing by a further 13 per cent by the end of 2008. The court, however, has managed to reduce the backlog by 1,358, despite the increasing workload.