Fundamental changes await the County Courts system as the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) introduces a new system for issuing nearly all Claims from 19th March 2012 through the National Civil Business Centre (NCBC).
Any “designated money claim” will now have to go through the NCBC. This means that the majority of claims for debt and/or damages will have to be issued through the NCBC.
The term “designated money claim” is defined in Rule 2.3(1) of the CPR and means the following:
- any claim started in a County Court under Part 7 of CPR;
- is only a claim for either or both a specified amount of money or an unspecified amount of money; and
- is not a claim for which special procedures are provided in the CPR.
The Practice Form “N1” must be sent to: County Court Money Claims Centre, PO Box 527, M5 OBY. As Statute requires that claims in a County Court must be issued in a named County Court, the Practice Direction therefore names Northampton County Court which will be the sole Court of issue for all such claims and the NCBC will mainly act as an administrative office and deal with the issue and service of claims and then either with entry of default judgments or the preliminary stages up to the filing of allocation questionnaires.
Cases will then be transferred.
Claimants can currently issue in any County Court. That right will now be lost if the claim is a “designated money claim”. Instead the Claimant must nominate a “preferred court” which in the amended Rule 2.3(1) of the CPR means, if the claim is proceeding in a County Court the Claimant has specified in Practice Form N1 as the Court to which the proceedings should be transferred if necessary.
There are several amendments to the CPR, but the combined effect is for automatic transfer to either the Defendant’s home Court or the Claimants preferred Court. When the case is seen by a District Judge at the transferee Court, it may well be decided that another Court is better suited to deal with the claim. One thing to remember is that Judges generally dislike playing “judicial ping pong” with Court files and it is therefore respectfully suggested that legal representatives choose the “preferred Court” with care. The legal representatives should also bear in mind that it does not necessarily mean that one should choose the local Court where one would have issued a claim before the changes came into place and replaced it with NCBC.
Finally, it should be noted that the basic administrative functions with effect from 13th March 2012 are going to be centralised at the NCBC and as that will no longer be carried out at the local County Court, this also means a significant reduction of staff at the local County Courts.