How to Issue a Claim in the New County Court Money Claims Centre

Dated:   

The Civil Procedure Rules have been amended to facilitate the processing of all designated money claims at the County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC). The Centre situated in Salford (known as the National Civil Business Centre or Salford Business Centre) is aimed at centralising some administrative functions and will manage the early stages of the claims including admissions, default judgments, acknowledgement of service, defences and allocation questionnaires.

Civil Procedure Rules have been amended

This is a significant change of policy and process for County Courts throughout England and Wales, in an attempt to save Her Majestys Courts and Tribunals Service a large amount of money.

A similar process has been in place since late 2010 for those in and around the Manchester circuit and has attracted widespread criticism from some in the profession and in the media.

Centralisation and Costs Saving

The irony of this 'centralisation' is that whilst all money claims will and must now be issued out of the Northampton County Court in name, they will be sent to the Salford Business Centre at the following addresses for issue:

Post
Salford Business Centre
PO BOX 527
Salford
M5 0BY

Document Exchange
Salford Business Centre
DX 702634
Salford 5

Any correspondence thereafter, relating to Acknowledgements of Service, Defences, Requests for Judgment, Allocation Questionnaires MUST all be sent to the same address.

Enquiries on cases proceeding at CCMCC will be fielded by email at the following addresses:

For e-mail enquiries: ccmcccustomerenquiries@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk
For e-filing enquiries: ccmcce-filing@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk

A dedicated telephone number has also been set up for phone enquires: 0300 1231372, which is a significant improvement on the "no-telephone communication" regime that has previously been in place at the Salford Business Centre.

Rule Changes

It follows that a plethora of consequential amendments have been made to Parts 2, 3, 12, 13, 14, 23, 26 and 30 of the Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Directions 7A and 7D. Practitioners would be wise to become familiar with the amendments.

This particular update to the CPR signifies the creation of two terms of art, that will become as common place as the term "issuing."

The first term: "designated money claim" simply defines a money claim as one issued in the County Court under Part 7, to which no other special procedures under the Rules apply.

The second term: "preferred court" is a County Court specified by a Claimant to which a designated money claim may be transferred in certain circumstances.

Preferred Court

The addition of the requirement to state a 'Preferred Court' will have an impact in practice. How is the Preferred Court decided? The 58th Update states that if the claim is proceeding in a County Court, it is "the county court the claimant has specified in practice form N1 as the court to which the proceedings should be transferred if necessary".

Thus a new Form N1, with a section to insert the preferred court will be released by HMCTS any time now. Solicitors will be required to name on the N1 Claim Form AT THE OUTSET the court that the case would otherwise have been transferred to/ the Court that would have been named in the allocation questionnaire as appropriate to transfer the case to.

Practitioners will have to think carefully about which Court they name as the preferred one. DJ Hill, who is a member of the Civil Procedure Rule Committee states in the Law Gazette (02/02/2012) "As judges generally dislike playing 'judicial ping pong' with court files it is respectfully suggested that solicitors should choose the preferred court with care. This should not necessarily be the local court where you would have issued before you were required to issue at the NCBC."

The HMCTS has updated its online court finder which is located at http://hmctscourtfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/. It is not without problems as searching by postcode will only work in London, but searching by area (or Parish) does bring up the details of the local court.

Form Changes

The new N1 Claim Form has now been released and is available at http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/GetForm.do?court_forms_id=2750 for use on and after 16th March 2012. A new N149 Small Claims Allocation Questionnaire will also be required.

Allocation Questionnaires

These will no longer be provided to practitioners in each case. Instead only a Notice will be received that will state as per Part 26 at 26.3:

(1A) When a Defendant files a Defence, the Court will serve a notice on each party –

  1. Identifying the appropriate allocation questionnaire to be filed;
  2. Stating the date by which the allocation questionnaire must be filed;
  3. Stating the court to which the allocation questionnaire must be returned; and
  4. Informing them how to obtain the allocation questionnaire

No Response from the Defendant?

If the Defendant fails to file a Defence, a request for judgment can be made to the Salford Business Centre.

(3.5A) If –

  • A Claimant files a request for judgement which includes an amount of money to be decided by the Court in accordance with rule 3.5; and
  • the claim is a designated money claim,
The court will transfer the claim to the preferred court upon receipt of the request for judgment.

Time for Transfer of Proceedings

This will be covered in Part 26 at 26.2A.

The rule states that ordinarily transfer will occur when:

  • All parties have filed their allocation questionnaires; or
  • The period for filing allocation questionnaires has expired

Anticipated Practical Problems

Three questions spring immediately to mind about this process.

1. Will local Courts still be able to issue claims if required?
The answer to the first question is that applying the rules strictly, the answer will be no, if the claim is a designated money claim and the local Courts do in fact apply the rules strictly.

2. What about limitation?
Managers of Risk, right across the country will now be in a panic about how to issue claims when limitation is fast approaching. The over-the-counter service that would have been previously available whilst-you-waited and as a last resort will, seemingly, no longer be available. The worst case scenario being that you could send a claim to be issued, in advance of limitation expiring, yet the date the Salford Business Centre actually process it and record as the issue date on the Claim Form is after the expiry of the primary limitation period. Has limitation been missed in these circumstances? Possibly not.

Practitioners might find some solace in the following exert from PD 7A:

5.1 Proceedings are started when the court issues a claim form at the request of the claimant (see rule 7.2) but where the claim form as issued was received in the court office on a date earlier than the date on which it was issued by the court, the claim is 'brought' for the purposes of the Limitation Act 1980 and any other relevant statute on that earlier date.

5.2 The date on which the claim form was received by the court will be recorded by a date stamp either on the claim form held on the court file or on the letter that accompanied the claim form when it was received by the court.

5.4 Parties proposing to start a claim which is approaching the expiry of the limitation period should recognise the potential importance of establishing the date the claim form was received by the court and should themselves make arrangements to record the date.

It would be wise therefore, when time is of the essence, to use a method of delivery that is recorded and signed for, with objective evidence available of this.

3. Will I get a copy sealed Claim Form back?
The simplest of answers, no. Practitioners must retain a copy of the documents sent for issuing.

THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED AS LEGAL ADVICE. SIMPSON MILLAR LLP (FORMERLY COLEMANS) ARE IN NO WAY AFFILIATED WITH THE COUNTY COURT MONEY CLAIMS CENTRE. PLEASE BE AWARE THE SECTION BELOW IS NOW CLOSED FOR COMMENTS, FUTURE POSTS WILL NOT APPEAR OR BE RESPONDED TO.


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