The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR for short) which govern all litigation in England and Wales are being reformed. Some important changes, which are set out below, are due to come into force in April.
The primary changes are the introduction of a single County Court, an increase to the financial limit of the County Court’s jurisdiction and changes to enforcement.
Introduction of the single County Court
This change is expected to come into force on 22 April 2014. Insolvency proceedings and High Court proceedings are unaffected by these changes.
Sections 17(1) and 17(2) of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 will provide for a single County Court with national jurisdiction. The current geographical boundaries of existing County Courts will be removed and there will be a single national entity with a national jurisdiction known as “the County Court”.
The County Court will sit at various locations throughout England and Wales with Courthouses acting as hearing centres with administrative offices attached to them. It remains the case that most cases will be heard at the hearing centres located nearest to the defendant’s home address or place of business.
As a result, Judges will no longer be restricted to certain geographical areas and will be able to sit as a Judge in any part of the country. Certain judges (other than the current district and circuit judges) will be able to sit as judges “of the County Court”.
The Northampton County Court is going to be renamed “the County Court Business Centre”. Any claims issued at the County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC) and the County Court Business Centre will remain there up to the point a hearing is required or the claimant wishes to commence enforcement action.
Finally, Part 8 claims and possession claims that cannot be issued online will now be able to be issued in any County Court hearing centre unless a rule, practice direction or enactment provides otherwise. However, when a claim is given a hearing date, the court may direct that proceedings be transferred to another court. Unfortunately, this may create delays in hearings taking place.
Increase in financial limit of County Court’s jurisdiction
From 22 April 2014, any claims valued over £350,000 should be started in the Chancery Division of the High Court. All other claims can be issued in the County Court. In addition, all financial claims of up to £100,000 and personal injury claims of up to £50,000 should be issued in the County Court. Any claims commenced on or after this date will be subject to these changes. However, any claims issued before that date will remain in the courts in which they were issued unless a judge orders otherwise.
Enforcement law changes
A series of amendments are being made to implement Part 3 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. This Act sets out what goods an enforcement officer can and cannot seize and sell, how bailiffs can enter a property, what fees bailiffs can charge and what notices they can send to debtors. Furthermore, the procedural rules for enforcement are going to be incorporated into the main body of the CPR – previously they were contained in the Schedules to the CPR.
The language used by those involved in enforcement has also been modernised. Warrants of execution will become known as warrants of control and writs of fieri facias have been renamed writs of control.
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