Welcome to the single County Court

Introduction of single County Court

From today, 22 April 2014, the Crime and Courts Act 2014, s 17, establishes a new single, national, County Court and amends the County Court Act 1984.

Some key effects of this change include:

  •  references to 'a county court' or 'county courts' will be changed to 'the County Court'. References to a specific county court will be changed to a County Court hearing centre. The Northampton County Court will be known as the County Court Business Centre
  • sittings of the County Court and any other business of the County Court may be held anywhere in England and Wales and will not be restricted to a particular district
  • Judges of the County Court will include Circuit Judges, District Judges (including Deputy District Judges) and all Senior Court Judges
  • proceedings will no longer be 'transferred' from one county court to another; instead they will now be 'sent' 'within the County Court'
  • the definition of 'designated money claim' has been removed; CPR 26.2A will now apply to all money only claims (whether they are for a specified or for an unspecified amount of money) in the County Court
  • changes to the directions questionnaires and other forms. Although there has been an indication that the courts will be sympathetic up to a point in relation to incorrect forms being used soon after the introduction of the single County Court, in the light of their tougher stance following the April 2014 Jackson Reforms and the decision in Mitchell—which was clear that practitioners should be aware of changes made to civil procedure—practitioners would be well advised to try to use the correct procedure, including forms, wherever possible
  • there will be certain circumstances where the claimant will not need to make the claim in the court serving the address in which the defendant resides or carries on business. Instead, they may be able to make the claim in any County Court hearing centre. However, where that hearing centre does not serve the address in which the defendant resides or carries on business, that hearing centre may need to send the claim to the appropriate hearing centre. This could result in delays, including in relation to the issuing and listing of the claim and, as such, practitioners may wish to consider whether it would be more beneficial to issue in the correct hearing centre in the first instance, particularly where up against a potential limitation and/or other time sensitive issue
  • changes to various automatic transfer provisions in relation to County Court money claims (previously 'designated money claims')

Other changes

Claims under £100,000 (apart from personal injury matters) must be commenced in the County Court. As such, many practitioners who have had very few, if any, dealings with the County Court up until now, may find they do after 22 April 2014. The High Court and County Courts Jurisdiction Order 1991, SI 1991/724, has been amended.

The equitable jurisdiction of the court under the CCA 1984, s 23, will be increased from £30,000 to £350,000. The County Courts Jurisdiction Order 1981, SI 1981/1123, is revoked from 22 April 2014 and replaced by the County Court Jurisdiction Order 2014, SI 2014/503.

Freezing injunction restrictions in the County Court have been lifted.

Transitional provisions

For transitional provisions applying to proceedings commenced in a county court before 22 April 2014, see the Civil Procedure (Amendment No 4) Rules 2014, SI 2014/867, reg 25(5).

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