County Court

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Law of England and Wales

This article is part of the series:
Courts of England and Wales

A county court is a court based in or with a jurisdiction covering one or more counties, which are administrative divisions (subnational entities) within a country, not to be confused with the medieval system of county courts held by the High Sheriff of each county.

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England and Wales

County Court matters can be lodged at a court in person, by post or via the internet in some cases through the County Court Bulk Centre. Cases are normally heard at the court having jurisdiction over the area where the defendant lives. Most matters are decided by a District Judge or Circuit Judge sitting alone. Civil matters in England (with minor exceptions, e.g. in some actions against the police) do not have juries. Judges in the County Courts are either former barristers or solicitors, whereas in the High Courts they are more likely to have formerly been a barrister.

Civil claims with an amount in controversy under £5,000 are dealt with in the County Court under the Small Claims Track (sometimes known to the lay public as "Small Claims Court," although it is not a separate court). Claims between £5,000 and £25,000 (£15,000 for cases started before April 2009) that are capable of being tried within one day are allocated to the "Fast Track" and claims over £25,000 (£15,000 for cases started before April 2009) to the "Multi Track." These 'tracks' are labels for the use of the court system - the actual cases will be heard in the County Court or the High Court depending on their value. For personal injury, defamation, and some landlord-tenant dispute cases the thresholds for each track have different values.

Appeals are to a higher judge (Circuit Judge hears District Judge appeals), the High Court of Justice or to the Court of Appeal.

In debt cases, the aim of a plaintiff taking County Court action against a Defendant is to secure a County Court Judgment. This is a legal order to pay the full amount of the debt. Judgments can be enforced at the request of the plaintiff in a number of ways, including requesting the Court Bailiffs to seize goods, the proceeds of any sale being used to pay the debt, or an Attachment of Earnings Order, where the defendant's employer is ordered to make deductions from the gross wages to pay the plaintiff.

County Court Judgments are recorded in the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines and in the defendant's credit records held by credit reference agencies. This information is used in consumer credit scores, making it difficult or more expensive for the defendant to obtain credit. In order to avoid the record being kept for years in the Register, the debt must be settled within 30 days after the date the County Court Judgement was served (unless the judgement was later set aside). If the debt was not fully paid within the statutory period, the entry will remain for six full years. [1]

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