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A Guide to the Process of Debt Recovery Cases in the County Court

Issue

Money claims are initially sent to the Northampton County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC) to be issued. The Court will allocate the claim a number and issue the claim upon receipt of a Claim Form and appropriate court fee. When your claim is issued it will be served on the Defendant by the Court, usually by first class post. Once the claim has been posted you will received a document titled “Notice of Issue”. This document will inform you of the following:

The deemed service date of the Claim Form;

The date by which the Defendant has to file an Acknowledgement of Service / Defence (this being 14 days after the date of deemed service).

If the Defendant replies to the claim and Acknowledges Service this allows them an additional fourteen days to file their Defence. Therefore the Defendant will be entitled to twenty eight days from date of deemed service to file their Defence.

If the Defendant fails to file an Acknowledgement of Service or Defend the claim within fourteen days then you will be entitled to request Judgment from the Court for the outstanding amount.

Once the Request for Judgment is sent to the Court, the Court will enter Judgment and provide a copy of the same within 14 days. The Judgment is generally payable immediately.

Defence

If the Defendant files an Acknowledgement of Service and a Defence within the times specified above then the claim will be regarded as protracted and the fixed fees will no longer be applicable. All additional work undertaken by our solicitors following receipt of the Defence will be charged at an agreed rate depending on the complexity of the matter and the fee earner. Generally, costs will be billed in accordance with the hourly rates set out below:

£125 plus VAT – Trainee Solicitor

£175 plus VAT – Assistant Solicitor

£250 plus VAT – Partner

Further work on the matter will be incurred on a time-cost basis.

Upon receipt of the Defence our solicitors will assess the strengths and weaknesses of your claim and whether the Defence has a prospect of succeeding. They will then notify you of this review and take instructions from you as to how you wish to proceed.

If you decide to proceed with the claim then upon receipt of the Defence the Court will then request that the parties file a document known as a “Directions Questionnaire”. Generally the deadline for filing this is within 3 – 4 weeks of receiving the notification from the Court. Once completed, the Directions Questionnaire provides the Court with important information to enable it to manage the claim going forward and up to trial. Should the Directions Questionnaires not be completed and filed by the deadline specified by the Court then there is a possibility that the Court can strike out your claim / the Defendant’s Defence. When the Direction Questionnaires have been filed, which track the claim will be allocated to is decided by the Court. The English legal system has three tracks in which money claims are allocated to:

(1) Small Claims Track – where the value of the claim does not exceed £10,000.00

(2) Fast Track – where the value of the claim is between £10,000.00 and £25,000.00 and

(3) Multi-Track – where the value of the claim exceeds £25,000.00. Once your claim has been allocated to a track you will receive directions from the Court as to how the claim will progress.

Disclosure

One of the first deadlines that both the Claimant and Defendant will need to comply with is that of Disclosure. Disclosure is the process of identifying, (whether beneficial or prejudicial) the documents that are relevant to the claim. The types of documents included in Disclosure will likely include emails, letters, invoices and so forth etc.

Witness Statements

Once the process of Disclosure has been dealt with the Claimant and the Defendant will then be required to prepare Witness Statements that will be filed with the Court. The purpose of the Witness Statements are to outline (in the party’s own words) the background to the claim.

Trial

Finally, the Court will list the matter for trial. The length of the trial will depend on the complexity of the claim and the track it has been allocated to. If the claim proceeds to trial it will be necessary to instruct a barrister to attend the hearing. The cost of instructing a barrister to attend on your behalf will depend upon the complexity of the claim, the length of the hearing and the barrister’s level of seniority. At the trial, the Court will hear evidence from both parties and then make a ruling i.e granting Judgment in favour of the Claimant or striking out the claim in favour of the Defendant.

Costs

In terms of recovering costs this will generally depend on what track the claim has been allocated to and whether you are successful at trial. However, please note that claims allocated to the Small Claims track have no entitlement to the recovery of legal costs save for the fixed ones detailed in Part 45 of the Civil Procedure Rules.

Settlement

Through the whole of the Court process there is an opportunity for the parties to settle the claim by negotiations rather then proceed to full trial. This can happen at any stage of the proceedings.

Enforcement

If your claim is successful, the Court will send a copy of the Judgment to the parties ordering the Defendant to pay a specific sum to the Claimant within 14 days. If the Defendant fails to make payment within the 14 day period, it may be necessary to commence enforcement proceedings against the Defendant. At Advocate, we are very experienced in enforcing Judgments and we would be happy to discuss with you the various options available to you should the Defendant fail to make payment.

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