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Northern Ireland County Court Jurisdiction Consultation Update

We reported on the Northern Ireland County Court Jurisdiction Consultation in February. 

The Department of Justice has released a summary of consultation responses and next steps to the consultation. 

Based on the consultation responses the Department is minded to increase the county court jurisdiction to £60,000, with an increase in the jurisdiction of district judges to £20,000.  

The Department is inclined to maintain the current county court jurisdiction of £30,000 in respect of medical negligence claims. 

The small claims limit will be increased from £3,000 to £5,000, and unlike the other proposals, the Department intends to implement this increase imminently. There will be no change to the type of case that can be dealt with by the small claims court. 

Respondents to the consultation identified several key issues that ought to be addressed alongside an increase in jurisdiction to include pre-action protocols, ADR, dedicated civil listings, suitable modern court accommodation and judicial training requirements. 

The Department recognises that many of these issues need to be addressed prior to the implementation of an increased jurisdiction and given the effect of Covid-19 on the courts, the Department does not intend implementing the increase in this Assembly mandate. Instead, the Department intends to establish a Working Group to analyse the practical implementation of the consultation findings. 

Matthew Fitzpatrick of Horwich Farrelly commented that we have been quite vocal about the need for improved pre-action protocols and pleadings, and most importantly, for sanctions to be applied for non-compliance. There is a pre-action protocol in the county court at present, however few sanctions are applied for non-compliance. A pre-action protocol for credit hire cases is currently under consideration and we have made detailed submissions to the working group in relation to this. 

The increase in county court limits follows the path that has been taken already in England & Wales. However, it is essential that there is adequate resourcing in place before the changes are implemented and we await with interest the recommendations of the Working Group in that regard.  

Should you wish to discuss this matter or indeed obtain further information please do not hesitate to contact Matthew Fitzpatrick on 029 9091 2960, email matthew.fitzpatrick@h-f.co.uk.

 

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matthew

Matthew Fitzpatrick