Taking someone to small claims court for the first time can be a worry as you won’t really know what to expect.
This week, the new Justice Minister, Simon Hughes, said that he wanted to make the court more user friendly. His comments related to courts generally so includes small claims, higher value disputes and family matters.
From experience, the different courts in the country differ greatly, one from the next. Some County Courts are in grand old buildings. Others are in bland stereotypical Council buildings from the 70s. In the older buildings, it can be difficult to know where to go and what to do. The more recent courts, such as the Civil Justice Centre in Manchester, are in modern buildings with much more appropriate facilities. In Manchester, you are met with a grand open space with both a reception and tv screen to help you find out which court room you need to go to and how to get to it.
There has been a lot of press about the poor way in which witnesses and parties are treated in sensitive matters such as family proceedings. Making the courts more comfortable and friendly to the people entering them, whether as parties or witnesses, can only help.
It remains to be seen whether Mr Hughes gets the chance to put his proposals into action and what he would actually done if given the chance. He admits there is no extra money available in the budget. It might be that the extra money will come from recent proposals to increase court fees. Some in the press consider his comments were an attempt political point scoring, as he was emphasising he wanted to promote a more distinctive Liberal Democrat presence in the Ministry.
Taking someone to small claims court need not be a frightening experience but knowing what to expect and the courts themselves being easier to use, can only help.