Change to county court procedures
County court procedures are changing. From 19 March, most county court claims will have to be sent to the new National Civil Business Centre (NCBC).
This is merely an administrative centre. They will deal with paperwork concerning issue and service of claims, and later entry of default judgments, covering most damages and/or money claims.
Claims will be treated as issued in the Northampton County Court. In practice, litigants will not usually need to travel to Northampton. Cases will be automatically transferred to the defendant’s local court or the claimant’s chosen ‘preferred court’.
Transfer to defendant’s local court
Claims will continue to be transferred automatically to the defendant’s local court where:
- the claim is not a specialist claim
- the claim is for a specific sum (typically debt claims)
- the defendant is a private individual.
Transfer to claimant’s preferred court
Claimants lose the ability to select the court they issue in, but they may nominate a ‘preferred court’. If the case is not automatically transferred to the defendant’s local court, it may be transferred to the preferred court.
Possible transfer away from defendant’s local court or preferred court
The intention is to change procedures as little as possible. Parties will still be able to apply to transfer their case elsewhere or the court may do so, therefore preferred courts should be selected with care. Considerations for transferring cases to other county courts (or indeed to the high court) include:
- the value of the claim
- whether it would be more convenient or fair to transfer
- whether specialist judges are available
- the complexity of facts, remedies or procedures
- court facilities.
The changes are part of a drive to streamline the administration of justice. There have been significant cutbacks in county court staff and those remaining are learning to operate a new system. Court delays are therefore possible.
Our litigation team will do everything possible to minimise the inconvenience of court procedures but you should be aware of potential delays while the new system beds down. You should let your legal team know if you have strong preferences as to where hearings take place.
As always, if you need commercial and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.