Evaluation: Delays and Costs
Although it is the lowest court in the hierarchy, the Magistrate Court provides an important function in the adjudication process. By focusing on dealing with matters effectively and expediently, it encourages a system of justice that is '...responsive and accessible to all.' Therefore, in order for the Magistrates Court to operate at its fullest capacity, it is necessary that delays are kept to a minimum.
Taking a case to court takes a great deal of time; not only in court proceedings, but in the preparation beforehand. Not only it is advisable that both parties consult counsel, but the drafting of legal documents, coupled with following up witnesses and evidence, can be rather time consuming.
Both directly and indirectly, the cost of justice can be high. Whilst delay in litigation is inevitable and necessary to ensure the thoroughness of proceedings, long delay may result in injustice. It places a burden on a poorer litigant, or to one whose interests are otherwise best served by a speedy resolution.
The longer a case runs, the more it will cost. Essential tasks tend to be repeated and marginally relevant ones undertaken. Both parties in Arista v Telecoms were legally represented and the period over which proceedings occurred, meant that legal costs would be high.
Indirectly, client resources which could be utilized in income-earning activities may be tied up litigation. Business opportunities may be forsaken because of the length or uncertainty of the result. There may also be a social and psychological burden, brought forth by the stress of proceedings. In Arista v Telecoms, both parties had been in business for over twenty years, of which they had been friends for fifteen. Therefore, there is not only the legal and financial burden to consider, but also the loss of potential business,