Clients generally want money when they come to us. Naturally there are a number of different departments that also serve client needs, but that goes beyond the scope of this article. The point is that what our client wants is normally what they receive after our initial advice. The bulk of our clients walk away with a financial remedy (not 100% – we’re not perfect!)
The challenge we generally face is with the defendant’s representative. This is “par for the course” as we expect them to defend a claim and employ various defendant tactics. This is acceptable.
What is not acceptable are 2 other hurdles which impinge upon litigation.
(1) County Court staff; and
(2) Telephone hearing providers.
1. County Court Staff
The Courts make mistakes. An awfully high number of errors. This frequently results in telephone calls, letters and applications to get a claim back on track. Not all of these are recoverable from the defendant and it is unfair to bill the client.
Recourse to the Central Funds is hardly ever sought or received. Firms know it is a waste of their time. Sadly, there needs to be some form of Ombudsman to cover HMCTS errors of this nature. It is fair that complaints are dealt with by the Court manager (normally ending up with the highest ranking Judge). The common result is that the Court rectifies the mistake quickly. The financial remedy is rarely, if ever, addressed.
This is something that needs to be sorted out.
2. Telephone Hearing Providers
Too many telephone conferences experience technical faults and have to be relisted. This is generally through BT Legal Connect.
Their staff appear to be friendly Gloucester folk, and they are very civil and polite.
However their technical issues are too frequent. I am aware they will have a good argument to make that they cannot control other networks they connect to for the Court and 2 or more representatives. I find it unconvincing as they are not dealing with mobiles in the wilderness. They are nearly always connecting landlines to Chambers (Judges and Counsels’ chambers).
When a conference is adjourned and re-listed then it incurs another brief fee or hourly rate(s) piece of work. Cost go up and you cannot recover this from the Court or the telephone provider.
If this happens, as it does so on too many occasions, there should be a report by the telephone service provider explaining the technical issues behind the call. If the fault is found to be due to “their end” then the costs of the relisted hearing should fall to them. They are taking around £40 + VAT for each hearing so it will cut into their profits but not wipe them out (they are making a packet). Once every 6 months these figures could be audited and reported back to the MOJ/other relevant parties who decide on panel service providers for telephone hearings.
Over and out.