A JUDGE yesterday described the long delays in bringing civil cases to court as 'a scandal'. Mr Justice Sears hit out at the system as he began trying a case involving a property deal which had taken six years to reach the High Court. 'It is a scandal that cases take this time in Hong Kong,' he said. Mr Justice Sears said the case before him should have been settled within 18 months. When told that the property at the centre of the dispute was sold for $620,000 in 1988, the judge asked: 'What is it worth now?' Then, with a smile, he said: 'I should think that has all gone in legal costs by now.' This is the second time in two days that Mr Justice Sears has had before him a case which has taken six years to come to court. On Tuesday he expressed his sympathy for a widow who had waited the same length of time for her court battle over the death of her husband in hospital to be resolved. Yesterday Mr Justice Sears commented on the difficulties faced by judges. He said the property hearing was expected to take 10 days. But he only received the case papers at 9.15 am on the day the trial was to begin. The judge said he had not been presented with a 'skeleton argument' setting out the plaintiff's case and the issues involved. He was not blaming the barristers concerned. 'It is the system here. We get criticised for not sitting in court certain hours. Generally on a case it takes me a day to read the papers. But I have only had 15 minutes . . . that is the difficulty we are under,' he said. 'The judge has a 10-day case and does not know anything about it.' He told the barristers involved that a judge should have been appointed three months ago to take charge of the proceedings. Nelson Miu, for the plaintiff, Sheecon Trading Company Limited, claimed a flat belonging to the firm was sold by one of the directors, Mary Ong Kim-yim, without authority. The defences argue that Ms Ong had provided the money for the purchase of the property, now estimated to be worth several million dollars, and therefore had the right to sell it. Concern has risen recently over delays in cases reaching Hong Kong courts. Last month proposals were put to the Legislative Council for six further judges to be appointed to help reduce waiting times. Government statistics show that the number of cases filed with the High Court increased from 16,950 in 1992 to 21,755 last year. A spokesman for the Judiciary said it was unable to comment on what the judge had said.