The Practice Directions of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 have been amended to allow for the introduction of a pilot scheme called the “small claims paper determination pilot”, under rule 51.2.
It will allow the court to decide that a small claim can be determined without a hearing and without needing the agreement of all the parties (their agreement is currently required under rule 27.10). The aim is to speed up proceedings for lower value claims, as courts are struggling to deal with caseloads.
Dates and participating courts
This came into effect on 1st June 2022 and will run for two years until 1st June 2024, although it can be extended. The pilot will still apply after the end date for cases that were listed for determination without a hearing during the pilot period.
The courts that are taking part in the pilot are: Cardiff, Manchester, Guildford, Bedford, Luton and Staines and the pilot will apply to cases issued after the pilot has started, but it will not apply to existing proceedings. If proceedings are transferred from another court into a pilot court, then the pilot may be applied.
However, if a small claim that was listed for determination without a hearing is moved from the small claims track to another track, the pilot will no longer apply.
There are other claims that will not form part of the pilot. These are:
- Where the parties have followed the pre-action protocol for personal injury claims below the small claims limit in road traffic accidents and proceedings that have been started under Practice Direction 27B
- For housing disrepair
Small claims where it is not necessary to hear oral evidence can be deemed suitable for a determination without a hearing, either with the agreement of the parties or at the court’s discretion. Form N180 (Directions Questionnaire (Small Claims)) will be updated to include a section for either party to say if they think the claim may be suitable and if not, why not.
The type of claims that may be suitable include:
- Any claim of £1,000 or less where there is no significant factual dispute or complexity that requires oral evidence or advocacy
- Flight delay compensation
- From the issuing of a parking ticket on private land
Objection by parties
Parties will be given at least 21 days’ notice of the date of the determination of a small claim without a hearing. If one or more of the parties is not happy with the decision to not have a hearing, they can then file a short written objection to that decision no less than seven days before the date of the determination.
The judge will then reconsider the suitability and decide whether to continue with the paper determination (and provide a note of their reasons) or list the claim for a hearing.
If one of the parties is still not satisfied with the decision to have a determination without a hearing, they can seek permission to appeal under rule 52.3, but they may not apply to set aside the judgment under rule 27.11.
David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance