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The truth about civil cases

The purpose of this page is to shed some light on how long it typically takes between someone lodging their case with the county court and a hearing taking place, if one is needed.

Civil disputes and the county courts

Civil disputes cover a range of issues including non-payment of debts, personal injury, breach of contract, housing disputes and bankruptcy.

In England and Wales, most of these are dealt with at the county courts. These are also sometimes called the small claims courts, although they also hear more serious cases. The most serious ones are heard in the High Court.

About 1.4 million civil claims and petitions are brought to the county courts each year. Typically only about 3-4% of these require a hearing. In the vast majority of cases, either the defendant does nothing so the claimant can ask the court to order the defendant to pay the amount claimed, or the disputes are settled without a court hearing being needed. 

More about how courts work...

Case length in your local area

You can find out about the time it typically took between a claimant lodging their case with the court and a hearing taking place in your local area, between April and June 2014.

There are two main types of hearing:

  • Small claims hearings (for value less than £10,000) - typically last no more than about an hour.
  • Trials (for value usually above £10,000) - may last more than a day. Claimants and defendants often wish to be represented by a solicitor at the hearing, particularly for complex cases.

National
England & Wales

Small claims hearings less than £10,000

Weeks in total
from 8,394 hearings

Breakdown of weeks

  • Weeks between case being submitted to court and hearing
  • 0
  • 5
  • 10
  • 15
  • 20
  • 25
  • 30
  • 35
  • 40
  • 45
  • 52

Trials for a value over £10,000

Weeks in total
from 3,429 trials

Breakdown of weeks

  • Weeks between case submitted to court and end of the trial
  • 0
  • 10
  • 20
  • 30
  • 40
  • 50
  • 60
  • 70
  • 80
  • 90
  • 104

Your selection
Please select a court from the 'Map' tab

Small claims hearings less than £10,000

Weeks in total
average over 0 hearings

Breakdown of weeks

  • Weeks between case being submitted to court and hearing
  • 0
  • 5
  • 10
  • 15
  • 20
  • 25
  • 30
  • 35
  • 40
  • 45
  • 52

Trials for a value over £10,000

Weeks in total
average over 0 trials

Breakdown of weeks

  • Weeks between case submitted to court and end of the trial
  • 0
  • 10
  • 20
  • 30
  • 40
  • 50
  • 60
  • 70
  • 80
  • 90
  • 104
    Select a court area on the map opposite to view the list of courts

About these statistics

These figures are based on statistics published in September 2014 by the Ministry of Justice on the Justice website. Feedback can be emailed to the Ministry of Justice statistics enquiries mailbox.

The figures on this site show the average time taken between the claimant lodging their case with the court and the hearing taking place, for all hearings taking place in the county courts between April 2014 and June 2014. Cases that are settled without a court hearing being needed (typically 96-97% of claims) or result in a default judgment are therefore not included.

Cases are counted based on the county court where the hearing took place rather than where the case was originally lodged. A few county court sites may not be named directly when they are situated in the same building as a magistrates' court or Crown Court. Such buildings are often called a Combined Court Centre or similar. All the cases in these statistics will have been heard in the county court part of these combined buildings.

In addition, broad estimates of the number of civil claims resolved without a hearing or trial can be found on the Justice website. They are calculated based on the number of hearings or trials occurring in a court between April and June 2014, as a proportion of the number of claims issued over that same period. These are only estimates however, as in reality some hearings or trials occurring during the quarter will relate to claims which were originally issued during an earlier period. Claims may also have been originally issued at another court or the Northampton County Court Bulk Centre.

More information about the collation of these statistics can be found on the Justice website.


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