The County Court system – A complete U Turn?

Sometimes a person involved in a county court dispute will need to make a straightforward written Application to a Judge to determine a side issue that is separate from the main dispute.  Often this is an Application by a Defendant requesting the court to “set aside” a judgment that has automatically been given because the Defendant did not meet a deadline.  The reason could be that the claim was posted over the Christmas holiday whilst the Defendant’s business was closed or that they did respond to the Claim but that the court never received the paperwork.  The application form invites you to state whether you want a personal / telephone hearing or for your request to be considered without any hearing.

Even where the paperwork is straight-forward and includes, say, a Post Office proof of postage to the court and despite asking for the matter to be handled without the need for a hearing, the courts seemingly always, without fail in the writer’s own experience, insist on a face to face hearing for which the fee is £80.  Often there would be little if anything to add to what was on the application, while the hearing may only lasts 5-10 minutes.  Of course travelling to the court adds significant nuisance value.

I was delighted therefore to learn last week that you can now specifically ask for such applications to be determined with no hearing, at a reduced price of just £45.

However, I was more than surprised to read an (unrelated) Order from another court stating that an entire dispute with a value of almost £10,000 was being determined without the need for either the Claimant or the Defendant being required to attend!  The Claimant has to now pay the court over £300 for a Judge to simply read the paperwork and to make a decision.  Whilst this would be understandable if the entire dispute hinged on points of law only, it is a dispute over the facts based on conflicting versions of events.

So, if this is anything to go by, the next time Mr or Mrs Angry screams “I’ll see you in court” - they may actually be screaming in vain.

NOTE:- Where you believe significant disadvantage will result if you do not appear in person, you can insist all parties are present on your day in Court.


Published: 17 Mar 2014

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