Practice direction 51ZC of the Civil Procedure Rules came into effect on 1 June 2022. This new pilot scheme called the ‘Small Claims Paper Determination Pilot’ allows for certain County Courts to deal with contested small claims on paper rather than at a hearing.
The pilot scheme is currently offered by Bedford, Luton, Guildford, Staines, Cardiff and Manchester County Courts until 1 June 2024.
How does the pilot work?
The pilot scheme is called the ‘Small Claims Paper Determination Pilot’ works as follows:
- The Court will consider the parties’ Direction Questionnaires and if it considers the claim suitable for paper determination it will notify the parties giving 21 days’ notice of the date of the determination.
- The parties can object to paper determination by filing written submissions no later than 7 days before the date of determination.
- The Judge will then consider the case and the written submissions and will either decide to proceed with paper determination or the claim will be listed for a final hearing in person.
- If paper determination is used there is no right to set aside a judgment on the basis the case was determined on paper rather than at a hearing. A party may appeal the judgment in the usual way.
The benefits of the Small Claims Paper Determination Pilot
It would appear that the courts are attempting to move away from in-person hearings and for good reason. The covid-19 pandemic has seen an increase in the courts administrative backlog with many cases experiencing long delays. Cases determined on paper will likely be concluded much quicker than those that are listed for hearings. This should also mean that parties will incur less costs.
At this stage the pilot is only targeted to determine small disputes and low value claims. Claims under the Personal Injury protocol and claims for Housing Disrepair will not be suitable for paper determination.
Good news for contested debt claims
This is potentially good news for contested debt claims. Depending on the size of the debt, legal costs can sometimes exceed the amount the claimant is trying to recover. This should help make costs more proportionate.
Speculatively speaking, a fair portion of debts that would previously have been written off due to potentially disproportionate costs would now be recoverable using the paper determination pilot (if and when it is rolled out to the County Court Money Claims Centre and/or the County Court Business Centre).
If you are having issues recovering debts then please do get in touch with our contact our Debtlink team on 01872 265109 or by email at DebtLink@stephens-scown.co.uk. We have a combined experience of over 40 years and are always happy to have a friendly, no obligation chat about any issues you may be facing.