Joint Committee On Human Rights Minutes of Evidence

Annex A


  This paper provides a statistical update of the impact of the Human Rights Act on the court system in the three months since its implementation on 2 October 2000. Where more up to date information is available, that has been used.


  The restructuring of the Administrative Court helped to absorb the impact of the Act and to reduce the number of outstanding cases from 2,830 on 31 January 2000 to 1,861 outstanding on 31 January 2001.

  The number of applications for judicial review increased from 1,616 between 2 October 1999 and 31 January 2000 to 1,738 between 2 October 2000 and 31 January 2001. This increase is mostly attributable to changes in immigration and asylum procedures.

  303 or 17 per cent of the cases lodged after implementation raised a human rights issue. The vast majority of those cases would have been lodged notwithstanding the implementation of the Act.

  There have been less than a dozen issues that could be termed "new".


  The number of cases received fell from 2,643 between 2 October 1999 and 31 January 2000 to 2,491 between 2 October 2000 and 31 January 2001.

  277 of those 2,491 cases contained human rights points

  The number of cases outstanding fell from 2,840 on 31 January 2000 to 2,080 on 31 January 2001.

  The average sitting time per case in the same period fell by five minutes. However, in relation to cases which raise important or overarching points of principle in relation to human rights, hearing times have been slightly longer. This extra time is being used in an effort to set definitive precedents which can be followed by the lower courts and thus save time overall. For example, a complex sentence appeal, which may ordinarily have been listed for 40 minutes prior to the implementation of the Act, may now (if it contains an important human rights ground) be listed for up to an hour and a quarter.


  The number of appeals and applications filed increased from 1,121 between October to December 1999 to 1,260 between October to December 2000. Among the factors that are likely to have contributed to this rise is an increase in asylum appeals and a rise in the number of applications disposed of.

  The number of outstanding applications and appeals fell, however, in comparison to the previous year.
Last quarter 1999-2000 Last Quarter 2000-01
Outstanding Appeals at 2 Oct, Nov, Dec 1070, 1022, 960900, 976, 842
Outstanding Applications1158, 1122, 1111 1022, 976, 908
Appeal hearing times increased very slightly in comparison to the previous year.
Average duration of days0.733 days 0.791 days
Appeal Hearings

  We know of only two cases since October, which were solely dependent on human rights issues. The latest position is that there are 93 cases containing human rights grounds on the live schedule of the Court of Appeal Civil Division.

  The emerging trend is that litigants are adding HRA points to many existing appeals with many instances of Counsel tacking HRA issues onto skeleton arguments in existing cases.


Queens Bench Division

  There were 49 cases citing human rights issues up to 2 January 2001.

  There have been no cases wholly reliant on a human rights point.

Chancery Division

  There were nine cases citing human rights issues up to 2 January 2001.

  There have been no cases wholly reliant on a human rights point.

Family Division

  The number of cases listed with a time estimate of half a day or more fell to 300 between October to December 2000 compared with the 317 listed between October to December 1999.

  Of those 300 cases, 21 cited human rights issues.

  One case depended wholly on the Human Rights Act.

  There has been only a negligible impact on hearing times.


  Between October to December 2000, less than 0.5 per cent of county court cases have involved human rights points.

  In the same period 76 claims for damages were issued in the county courts and High Court relying wholly on the Human Rights Act. In the same period a total of some 467,000 civil claims were issued.

  Average hearing times for small claims were 69 minutes in the period compared with 61 minutes in the same period for 1999. Average hearing times for trials increased from three hours 35 minutes in the last quarter of 1999 to three hours 44 minutes in the last quarter of 2000. However, these increases are probably more the consequence of the recent reforms in the civil courts than the Human Rights Act.


  In the three months after implementation, there were 168 occasions on which Human Rights Act issues were raised. This was less than half on one per cent of the cases heard by the Crown Court.

  Comparative figures show that the number of outstanding committals for trial fell from 24,624 on 31 December 1999 to 22,946 on 31 December 2000.

  Average hearing times for the quarter were 4.85 hours compared with 4.83 hours in the same period in 1999.


  Between October and December 2000, almost two thirds of Magistrates' Courts Committees (MCCs) in England and Wales (46 of the 73) had cases that dealt with human rights points. However, there were fewer cases as the quarter went on with 37 MCCs having Human Rights Act activity to report in October, 23 in November and seven in December.

  In total 227 points relating to the Human Rights Act were made in 161 hearings involving 290 defendants/applicants although not all these defendants/applicants were directly affected.

  87 per cent of the hearings in which the Human Rights Act was raised were criminal and in a majority of those cases it was Article 6 that was cited. Articles 5 and 8 were the next most relied upon.

  Article 6 was also most commonly referred to in non-criminal cases but with a higher proportion of points raised relying on articles 5 and 8 than in criminal cases.

  Throughput in the Magistrates' Courts (measured by units of weighted caseload per sitting hour) was 9.96 units per sitting hour in October to December 2000 compared to 10.52 in the equivalent quarter in 1999. This reflects a small decrease in caseload disposed of and a small increase in sitting hours but both well within the overall capacity of the courts.

  This suggests that there has been some impact as magistrates, in particular, adjust to the requirement to give reasons. However, feedback from Magistrates' Courts Committees, the small number of substantive points mentioned in reasons, together with the known volatility of this measure of throughput when shown on a quarterly basis, suggest that this could well be attributable in part to other factors unrelated to implementation of the Act.


  So far, the Human Rights Act has had no significant impact on the workload or disposal rates of LCD's Tribunals. The greatest impact has been in the Immigration Appellate Authority where the Act has been cited in 1,053 appeals, equivalent to 5.4 per cent of cases. However, human rights issues were the primary reason for the appeal in only 11 of these cases.


  There are a number of indicators, which give a picture as to the impact of the Act. All these, together with the Commission's direct and anecdotal experience both at Head Office and in the Regional Office, show that the Human Rights Act is having only a minor impact so far on the number of certificates granted.

  If the Act were having a significant impact on the number of cases funded, it would be demonstrated most clearly in the figures for the number of judicial review certificates issued.

  Between 1 October and 31 December 2000, 1,256 Community Legal Service Certificates were issued for judicial review, an increase of 10 per cent on the 1142 issued between 1 October and 31 December 1999.

  In the three months following implementation, 36 cases were recorded that raised "significant human rights issues", 21 of which were judicial reviews. This is a small number compared to the total number of certificates issued.

  It is not possible to predict the impact of the Human Rights Act on Fund expenditure at this stage.

Lord Chancellor's Department

March 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 18 April 2001