She told the Standard of the 'devastation' suffered by road collision victims who endure years of delays waiting for justice in the criminal courts that often go hand in hand with their civil claims for damages following serious injury.
Often, the knock on effect is that civil claims are then also delayed because personal injury lawyers rely on key evidence from the police and accident reconstruction experts that are part of the criminal case to use in the civil claim. This evidence also includes CCTV footage and key witness statements.
Without access to this vital evidence, the civil claim stalls because liability is then not proven and insurance companies will not pay out interim funds or settlements that the injured need to pay for urgent medical treatment and rehabilitation.
Harriet gave the example that the trial of a driver who left a man with severe brain injuries following a July 2021 road crash was set to take place last month at Woolwich crown court. At the last moment, it was adjourned for almost a year because there was no courtroom or judge available to hear the four-day case. Harriet then had to go back to her client and explain the delay.
A similar thing happened to another client, who had to have a leg amputated following a road traffic incident in August 2020. The client is still waiting for the criminal trial, which is now set for November this year.
Harriet said there is often 'disbelief' from clients that the process can actually take so long.
'A lot of their closure comes in the criminal process.' She said. 'They can close that particular chapter and start to look forward to more of a focus on recovery and rehabilitation. But things hang over them for so long.'
The problem around the backlog of criminal hearings has been blamed on the Government, which is under pressure from campaigners to commit to long-term increased investment in the ailing courts.
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