The County Court is the workhorse of the civil justice system in England and Wales. See Courts of England and Wales for a full list of the types of courts, and List of county courts in England and Wales for the locations of County Courts in England and Wales. There are 218 county courts which deal with the majority of civil cases, as well as some family and bankruptcy hearings
The government administrative agency for the courts in England and Wales is Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS) which is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice The governing statute is the County Courts Act 1984 and procedure is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 (CPR), which are common to all English civil law courts.
The County Court system in its present form has existed since 1847, when the County Courts Act 1846 was brought into force. The County Courts generally hear matters with a financial value of £50,000 or under (US$100,000 and €80,000). The present system is entirely statutory in origin and should not be confused with the medieval system of county courts held by the High Sheriff of each county.
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 under £5,000 are dealt with in the County Court under the 'Small Claims Track'. This is generally known to the lay public as the 'Small Claims Court' but does not exist as a separate court. Claims between £5,000 and £15,000 that are capable of being tried within one day are allocated to the 'Fast Track' and claims over £15,000 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 cases and some Landlord and Tenant disputes the thresholds for each track have different values.
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 Registry of Judgments, Orders and Fines (England and Wales) and in the defendant's credit records held by credit reference agencies. This information is used in Credit scoring systems, making it difficult or more expensive for the defendant to obtain credit.
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