Leading credit management lawyers have attacked the 'staggering' profits racked up by the civil court system last year - and have coupled their criticism with complaints about poor service and lengthy delays.
While urgent cases languish in the ever-mounting backlog - delays of several months are now routine - the civil courts hiked up their fees by as much as 150 per cent, enabling them to declare profits of pounds 45.5 million.
The situation has outraged lawyers, including members of the influential Institute of Credit Management - among the most outspoken critics of the Department of Constitutional Affairs.
The main victims of the poor service are trade creditors who have to pay in advance to issue proceedings, claims Larry Coltman, ICM national vice chairman and credit management specialist in debt recovery firm Coltman Warner Cranston in Coventry.
"Whilst many of those fees are recoverable from the defendant, if the claimant is successful, the fact remains that the creditors are out of pocket until they recover payment," Mr Coltman cautioned. "If they don't recover the debt and fees because of the debtor's insolvency or inability to pay, then they are out of pocket permanently.
"The ICM for a long time has thought that trade creditors are used and abused in this regard. Trade creditors should be treated differently from others as they represent businesses, which are the lifeblood of the nation."
He pointed out that even when the economy is booming, many businesses suffer from cash flow difficulties. Because of that collecting debts should be made as cost-effective and efficient as possible, without year on year increases in court fees.
Many lawyers have demanded the fees be cut, or …