County Courts have existed in England and Wales since 1846. There are currently around 170 such courts up and down the land.
As from 22 April 2014 amendments to the County Courts Act 1984 have the effect of creating a single court called “the county court”. The purpose is to centralise the jurisdiction and administrative functions of the former county court districts. Geographical boundaries are abolished. So too are complications about the transfer of cases between county courts and from High Court to county court. The county court will sit in locations designated by the Lord Chancellor. For the time being, this will include all current county court locations. But streamlined administration is likely to see the number of locations fall.
Court documents will also change. No longer will one refer to (say) “The Wandsworth County Court”. From 22 April 2014 the appropriate designation will be “The County Court sitting at Wandsworth”.
As well as changes to CCA 1984 there will be a raft of rule changes to reflect the new designation and jurisdiction. An important example is provided by CPR r.16(3)(5)(a) which increases the threshold for claims in the High Court from £25,000 to £100,000 (except personal injury claims which, for the present, remains unchanged at £50,000).
Changes will also be made to the rules about Part 7 ‘designated money claims’ which are currently issued through the National Civil Business Centre in the Northampton County Court. Amendments to PD7A will provide that if a claim started in the county court under Part 7 is a claim for an amount of money (whether specified or unspecified), and is not a claim to which special procedures are provided in the CPR or PD, then practice form N1 must be sent to the County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC) in Salford. Thus claims are no longer issued out of the Northampton County Court, but out of the County Court. All preliminary administrative stages will be managed at the CCMCC. As there is no facility for cases to be heard in Salford, the claimant is required to specify in the claim form the preferred hearing centre to which the proceedings should be sent in the event that the claim is defended or a hearing is required.
Derek Kerr / 4th Apr 2014
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