Delayed Justice in Cyprus is “the norm”.

As William E. Gladstone famously said “Justice delayed is Justice denied” and there is no question that delayed justice in Cyprus is “the norm”.

On one hand, the Courts are overwhelmed (Cyprus has one of the slowest legal systems in the European Union) and this status quo is then systematically abused by greedy and unethical lawyers in Cyprus, which for most of the time does not benefit their clients.

Of course there are always exceptions, and sometimes delays in the legal system can be perfect for you (depending on your case / legal problem) but as a general rule, this is a very unpleasant situation to be faced with.

In brief, when you have a legal problem, you will want to get things sorted in ‘a reasonable amount of time’ and in fact, this is a civil and human right (more on this another time). So, you’ll contact a lawyer and it’s very likely this lawyer will tell you that they can take care of everything and then ask for a retainer to move forward. Assuming you feel confident in what the lawyer is telling you (and most people do), the lawyer will in the early days do a good job. That is to say they will file your claim if you are taking legal action against someone else, or, respond to a claim against you. This is because the early stages of all legal cases move pretty quickly and there are set procedural rules about all of this.  It’s after this initial flurry of activity that you’ll start feeling the pain. First, you’ll discover, the most spoken words by lawyers in Cypriot courts are Your Honour, we need more time”. Why?. That’s simple. Lawyers take on or assigned by their bosses far too much work. This is because the firms take on more and more clients to grab those lovely upfront retainers. It’s these retainers that businesses running and pay for the posh chair you sat in during the first consultation. Moreover, it’s the easiest way for lawyers to collect large sums of money at a time when their clients feel angry, or vulnerable in relation to a legal problem.

The real problem is that your lawyer or law firm, not matter how good they are, is unlikely to have enough time and/or human resources to work on all of the cases they have taken on and this is a big problem, because one thing is for sure, good legal work requires time. Unfortunately, the vast majority of lawyers in Cyprus and pretty much everywhere else are time poor. They do not leave themselves enough ‘headroom’ for all of the  the twists and turns that will come once a case is in court and as mentioned above, they always have one eye on the front door waiting for new client to walk in.

It’s for all of the reasons above that the lawyers love requesting ‘postponements’ or do not object to requests from the ‘other side’. Equally, the Courts are, in reality, ‘happy’ to grant postponements and extensions because they too have a huge backlog of pending cases which all need to be dealt with. This is a fatal combination for you, the person at the centre of the legal issue.

We wish to be clear that what we have mentioned above is not a unique Cyprus problem, however, delays in Cyprus are above and beyond what you would face in other European Countries and is why, for example, an average civil case in Cyprus takes between 5 and 8 years to complete. Criminal cases can also take many years (2-5 years) and in relation to the latter, if you are on remand, you’ll be in prison for a very long time before a final decision is reached. If you are granted what is know as ‘a community sanction or measure’ or bail as you would know it, the case is likely to take even longer. So what you might say? Well in criminal cases, you have attend every court hearing and there can be many. You clear your day, you go to court (which can be very stressful in and of itself) and then your case is postponed again for any number of reasons. In civil cases, you don’t always need to attend court, so you wait for an update from your  lawyer and when it comes, it is nearly always the same old story. “We had to ask for more time” or, “the other side have asked for more time”, or, “the court have postponed the hearing because they had too many other cases to deal with”. All of this is 100% true.   

On occasions, delays may work in your favour and we’ll explore that topic at a later stage, however, if you are facing a civil legal challenge, or you have filed a case because you have a problem that is affecting your life right now, or you have been charged with a criminal offence, or you are the victim of a crime and are looking for justice,  the aforementioned delays can seriously affect you, your family, your business and/or your personal property. The affects on your mental health cannot be underestimated and honestly, nobody seems to care. The lawyers see this everyday, it is their job and it is the same for the judges. They only have so many hours in the day.

Meanwhile, after a short while, your lawyer will ask for more money. After all, even when cases are postponed, they have to attend court, hang around for anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, however, in reality, you are often paying for your lawyer to ask for more time so he/she/them can  kick your case down the road and focus on urgent matters in other cases and those lovely new clients who have just walked through the door.

We’ll expand on all of this at a later stage and provide some real world examples of just how atrocious things can be, however, for the moment, please be very careful about paying large retainers to lawyers unless you are certain they have your back. Don’t believe the hype from their slick sales pitches or from their websites. Ask the following simple questions:

1) Have you handled a case like mine before?

2) Did you win?

3) How long did it take

4) Can you tell me the case numbers and provided me with the final judgements in those cases. 

If they can’t give you immediate and convincing answers to the simple questions noted above, something is wrong.

This is a huge topic and our next job is to try and find some kind of solution to improve things. We’re working on that and we will update you over time.

In the meantime, if you really want to know how bad the speed of justice is in Cyprus, you’ll find no better source than the EU Justice Scoreboard which you view by clicking here. 

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