What do you think of when you think of the court process? A severe looking man in a wig bashing a gavel and shouting? A room full of clerks scribbling away with quill pens like in a Dickens novel?
The reality is that the modern court process for debt recovery is very different – for the first stages of the process there’s no courtroom and not even a Judge. Instead there’s just a computer system in an office block in the Midlands.
So what really happens?
For the purpose of this article we are assuming that a Letter Before Action has already been sent to the debtor, they have not responded, and so specialist debt recovery solicitors have been engaged.
The first thing the solicitors will do is compile the essential information neccessary to issue a Claim. This includes basic contact details such as name and address for the Claimant (the person who wants their money) and the Debtor (the person who owes the money). The solicitor will also put together what is known as the Particulars of Claim (or POC for short). This is a brief summary of what is owed, why it is owed and details of any additional interest, compensation or costs that should be added on to the debt.
Once all this information has been compiled it is sent electronically to the County Court Bulk Centre (CCBC) using a system known as Secure Data Transfer. This is a completely automatic process available to selected debt recovery solicitors and other high-volume Court users. It is not available to individual claimants.
Once the information is received by CCBC it is automatically checked for basic errors such as missing address information, non-UK postcodes, etc. Provided the information passes this validation process the data is then entered onto CaseMan – the Court Service computer system. At this point the case is allocated a Claim Number which is the unique reference henceforth used to refer to this case.
Every day all the cases received up to midnight the previous day are loaded onto CaseMan and then Claim Forms (N1) are printed for each case and posted out to the debtor. It is important to stress that this entire process is completely automatic – at no point is a Judge (or anyone else for that matter!) looking at the case and deciding which party is right or not.
If the debtor does not respond to the Claim Form within 14 days then an electronic request for Judgment can be made against the debtor (known as Default Judgment). Again it’s important to stress this is completely automatic – if the debtor has not responded then the Judgment will be entered regardless of the merits of the case. No human being (and certainly no Judge) will have looked at the case.
Once Judgment has been entered, Enforcement action can be taken to recover the debt. It is only if the Claim is defended that there is the potential that you will have to go to Court for a trial. On average only 16% of Claims are defended and far fewer (3%) actually reach a trial. If you do find yourself, having to go to trial you will in fact be surprised that the settings are far less formal than anticipated. Less Dickensian Court room and more modern office rooms within close proximity of the Judge who will listen to each side and make a decision and provide reasons for their decision accordingly.
Our first guest blog was written by Andrew Dancy of Lovetts Solitiors
For more information above Lovetts Solicitors please visit http://www.lovetts.co.uk or @LovettsDebt