33,000 pending court cases
IT MAY come as no surprise for many RTN readers to know that both Orihuela and Torrevieja‘s courts have a long backlog of cases to deal with. That backlog amounts to around 33,000 cases that are awaiting an outcome.
So it will probably also come as no surprise that some local residents and the likes of CPC Holdings, have reverted to the British courts, when it comes to trying to find swifter justice. It has long been mooted that any case of significant consequence can take a couple of years to be heard in the first instance, followed by up to four more years awaiting an outcome, and even then, it may go to appeal. According to Nikki Crozier from CPC Holdings, many multinationals and large property companies have successfully used this delaying and appeal tactic in the hope that by the time a case comes to court, the statutes of limitations will have passed, or the individual will have run out of money, time, health or inclination to see a case to its conclusion.
The bad news is that neither the Supreme Judicial Council (GCJ) or the High Court of Justice (TSJ) have a plan to tackle the jam that continues to grow in the courts of Torrevieja and Orihuela. Add to the lack of a plan, a lack of resources; as there does not seem to be a solution in sight because the Department of Justice does not have availability or budget to appoint officials to help remove the backlog, which amounts to more than 33,000 civil and criminal cases. Of these cases, in Orihuela there are 12,500 pending criminal cases being handled by three courts while Civil cases account for 9,337 matters pending resolution. Meanwhile in Torrevieja, the delays are mainly civil, with 7,000 procedures still to be tended to by their three judges.
Much of the blame on the backlog can be laid at the feet of the judicial system itself and the way that the courts are set up to handle civil and criminal proceedings. To put this in perspective, in the Community, civil judges contend with an average of 775 cases per year. In Torrevieja, the figure is 1,791, or more than double, while in Orihuela it stands at 1,204, almost 80% more than the EU average. In criminal matters, something similar happens. GCJ tables set out a number of court cases filed by the Community at 2,594 a year. In Torrevieja the figure is almost double that at 4,387, while in Orihuela, they have managed to break virtually all statistics, as their workload amounts to 8,788, more than triple the average.
The obvious solution is to create more courts, judges and expanded opening hours. When it comes to costs, to open a court costs half a million euros in salaries and expenses annually. A major negative and part of the reluctance to open new courts, is not the physical building itself but what it costs to maintain them. Thus, taking someone to court in the Vega Baja is very much a matter of ‘hurry up and wait’.