Procrastination is the thief of time.
Mr Justice Jeremiah Harman kept a farmer who had been bankrupted by a confidence trickster waiting for 20 months before giving his judgment. This was roundly condemned by Lord Justice Peter Gibson:
“Conduct like this weakens public confidence in the whole judicial process. Left unchecked I would be ultimately subversive of the rule of law. Delays on this scale cannot and will not be tolerated.”
The Saville enquiry into Bloody Sunday lasted 12 years, costing £400 million.
The Chilcot enquiry is now being criticised for running 6 years with no end in sight.
But how long is too long in relation to legal proceedings? When is justice delayed, justice denied?
Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees minimum rights for a fair trial, but there are no clear guidelines as to when a delay in the process becomes abusive. An old report by the European Commission may serve as rule of thumb. The report provides a summary table of cases decided by the ECtHR by case type.