Small Claims Court UK is somewhat of misleading phrase as the court systems of the countries within the UK are separate.
Our site deals only with the Small Claims Court process in England and Wales. The court systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland are separate and have their own rules.
County Courts & High Courts
The Small Claims Court process in England and Wales, is generally always within the County Courts of the Court system. The more senior High Courts, tend to only deal with higher value and more complex litigation. The High Courts have more senior and specialist Judges. Trials in the High Courts typically take days or sometimes weeks to be completed.
The County Courts deal with the vast majority of civil litigation.
Allocation to Track
As a reminder, there isn’t actually a Small Claims Court as such. Instead, there is a small claims “track”. The civil courts have three distinct “tracks” that a claim can be put on. The three tracks are 1) the small claims track 2) the fast track and 3) the multi track.
The small claims track is the usual track for claims of a value not exceeding £10,000 in value, and is the focus of our site. Claims of a value greater than £10,000 will usually be within the fast track or multi track.
The main impact of a claim being allocated to the fast track or multi track, is that the risk in relation to legal costs is greatly increased. In small claims, the usual order is that both parties are unable to recover their costs from the opponent regardless of the outcome, with the exception of court fees, capped expert report fees and limited witness expenses. In the fast track and multi track, the usual order by the court is that the successful party should have its reasonable costs paid by the unsuccessful party. Those costs can be substantial and run to thousands of pounds.
Fast track trials must be completed within a single day. Multi track trials might last a number of days.
Small Claims Trials
Small claims trials will usually be restricted to half a day before the Judge. Half a day might sound a long time but in practice it is not. Half a day usually equates to either a slot between 10am-1pm or 1pm-4pm, so around three hours. In those three hours the Judge needs to read the papers, hear the evidence, make its decision and deliver its judgment. It is very swift justice and there may not be time for the Judge to considering everything in detail.
For that reason, preparation of the evidence before trial and its presentation is important. It is crucial the make sure that the important points you want to get across are not hidden away. A well set out witness statement, in a logical order and with sub headings will be easier for a Judge to read and understand. Likewise, documents relied upon set out in a logical order and ideally paginated and indexed, will make things much easier to refer to at trial.
Very often, small claims trials are block listed. This means for example that there may be 3 Judges dealing with trials at 10am but 5 or 6 trials that need to go ahead all scheduled to take place at 10am. The court does this in the expectation that a number will settle and not go ahead, or that some simply won’t turn up. The problem is however, that if there are more trials than Judges, that some of the trials will not go ahead and will need to come back at a later date. That can be hugely frustrating and inconvenient.
Allocation to the Small Claims Track
The court decides which track to allocate a matter to and the main consideration is usually the value of the claim. As stated above, the court uses a £10,000 threshold for small claims and anything above that ought to be in the fast track or multi track.
Claims that fall within the small claims track are often referred to as claims within the small claims court, although there is no such thing. Small claims matters usually always remain in the County Courts, in the small claims track.
The vast majority of the Judges dealing with County Court work are District judges. Most District Judges are either former barristers or former solicitors. “Deputy” District Judges are part time Judges, so usually do a number of days work as a Judge each month and the rest of their time they will remain working as a solicitor or barrister. They have a mixed role.
District Judges and Deputies deal with a very broad range of disputes between them, often dealing with small claims trials, fast track trials, housing possession claims, insolvency and family work. All Judges should have a good grasp and understanding of the court rules.
In Summary – Small Claims Court UK
Small Claims Court UK isn’t actually a thing. The court systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland are separate from those of England and Wales.
In the courts of England and Wales, claims of a value not exceeding £10,000 in value are generally allocated to the small claims track of the court system and will likely be dealt with, within the County Courts.