Statistics published at the start of this month by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show a dramatic rise in the level of claims activity in the County Courts across England and Wales in the period January to March (Q1) of 2017.
Of particular note, is the finding that:
- A total of 508,711 County Court claims were commenced in Q1, more than in any other quarter since 2009;
- Specified money claims (where the claim is for a set amount of money and which are often issued in large numbers by credit card, utility and debt collection companies), increased to 392,800 in Q1, a rise of 22% on the same period last year; and
- Unspecified money claims (which are likely to include many professional negligence claims), increased to 37,700 in Q1, up 3,200 on the same period last year.
The volume of County Court claims has been increasing gradually since Q2 of 2012, although it had fallen back at the end of 2016. However, it is now sitting well above its previous peak in 2009.
Whether this trend will continue longer term remains to be seen. However, it would suggest that the changes to litigation funding brought about by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2013 have not arrested access to justice as some had previously feared. It may also show that lender forbearance is waning and that instances of personal insolvency could become more prevalent.
You can view the full MoJ report here.