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22-04-2014

Today is the launch of the Single County Court. Sections 17(1) and 17(2) of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 will remove geographical jurisdictional boundaries of county courts and establish "the County Court."

There are many terminology changes (see separate blog) but one suspects even more opportunity for delay, lost files and court inefficiency, whilst all the time Solicitors are wasting time and money complying with the letter of the law in terms of time limits (even where both parties agree extensions) whilst the courts have no time for its spirit.

The County Court will have no family jurisdiction but a single identity to reflect its national jurisdiction. County Court business will take place at County Court hearing centres. These hearing centres will correspond to the locations of the current county courts. Hmmm.

The location of the High Court district registries and Civil Trial Centres will be unaffected by these changes.

Insolvency proceedings will not be affected by the changes (proceedings will still need to be issued to the relevant hearing centre that serves the debtor's address/company's registered office).

District Judges will no longer be bound by district boundaries but will be able to sit in any County Court hearing centre in any part of the country so if you thought you could avoid some of our more challenging brethren you may be in for a surprise!

You will be able to start anywhere but it's a risky business as there may then be an administrative transfer should a defence come in.

Also from today 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. Also the financial limit below which claims may NOT be issued in the High Court is increased from 25K to £100K (with the exception of personal injury claims).

Financial claims of up to £100,000 and personal injury claims of up to £50,000 should be issued in the County Court.

County Courts will be able to deal with applications for freezing orders and authorised Circuit Judges will deal with the applications. If there is no authorised judge at the County Court hearing centre then the case will be sent to a hearing centre with a designated judge. It seems likely that the administrative delays and the lack of clerical staff experience might send one back into the arms of the High Court anyway as such applications require control over timing, sealing of orders etc.

The County Court's jurisdiction to deal with specialist proceedings such as applications for variations of trusts and applications under the Companies Act 2006 for reductions in capital will be removed.

Frances Coulson (fcoulson@moonbeever.com)

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