This post is to update anyone who is not already aware of the staffing shortages at Central London County Court and of the quality of service problems which arising from them.
In the case below I have not received any substantive response to my request for Central London County Court to an appeal which the Court has had for a month now since 2 May. The Court has also failed to reply to emails and telephone messages about the appeal.
On 2 May 2019 I sent papers to Central London County Court by email requesting that they issue an appeal against the Possession Order made in the Brentford County Court. This was necessary because Brentford like many other County Courts no longer has any Circuit Judges to hear appeals from District Judges. I included in my appeal papers a request for an Interim Order suspending enforcement of the Possession Order pending the outcome of the appeal.
As at 28 May 2019 I had received no response from Central London County Court to my request or replies to the emails which I sent asking for an update other than standard automatic responses acknowledging receipt of my emails. Meanwhile the landlord’s solicitor informed me that he was arranging to attempt to enforce the Order through the High Court. This meant that there was a risk of High Court bailiffs turning up at my client’s home at short notice. I therefore telephoned Central London County Court to try and find out what could be done as a matter of urgency. After waiting in a queue (I was number 36 the queue at the start of the call) for about ten minutes. I spoke to a member of staff who said that she would arrange for somebody to call me.
Having heard nothing by 29 May 2019 I called the Court again. I spoke to another member of staff. She was able to efficiently confirm that she could see my request for an appeal on the computer system and that I had called the previous day. She mentioned however that due to staffing levels at Central London County Court it was not expected that staff would respond for up to 4 days. She said that she did not work at Central London County Court itself but worked in another Ministry of Justice office outside London to which calls were transferred. She said that her role was to pass messages on to Central London County Court asking them to respond directly to the callers. She said that the that if Central London County Court failed to respond to two such messages they would put the caller straight through to a member of staff at Central London County Court. She said that because of the staff shortages facing Central London County Court they were not expected to respond to a message for up to four days. I have still received no response and will therefore call back for a third time on Monday. My worry is that even then I won’t be able to speak to anyone who can do anything more than pass a message on internally to someone who is supposed to be dealing with my appeal but isn’t.
It is very worrying that Central London County Court is taking so very long to issue urgent court papers and routinely failing to respond to correspondence. This is not the only case in which I have received no response to letters and emails sent to Central London County Court. It is frustrating that Judges at Central London County Court still consider themselves entitled to impose very high standards on those appearing before them in terms of deadlines for taking steps in preparation of cases for trial or in refusing to extend deadlines or give permission to appeal out-of-time. It would be helpful if they could recognise the difficulties which Legal Aid Lawyers face in the same way as the Courts due to funding levels nowadays and which prevent us from complying with the high standards which they still seem to consider to be appropriate when applying them to other organisations than their own.