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Northern Ireland County Court Jurisdiction Consultation

Horwich Farrelly Northern Ireland can confirm that on 4 February the Northern Ireland Executive announced the opening of a twelve-week consultation in relation to the jurisdiction on the County Court in Northern Ireland.

The consultation seeks views on whether improvements could be made to disposal of civil cases by increasing the current county court limit of £30,000. The aim is to make the system more efficient, with cases heard in the right court setting, consistent with their complexity and relative value.  There is a focus on access to justice for all and the early, appropriate and proportionate resolution of proceedings.

The full consultation can be viewed here.

A number of areas are being reviewed, including the County Court limit for hearing personal injury claims, currently set at up to a value of £30,000.  There are two options being considered:

  1. Increasing the value of cases that the County Court can deal with to £60,000.00, also allowing District Judges to deal with cases up to £20,000.00; or
  2. Increasing the value of cases that the County Court can deal with to £100,000.00, also allowing District Judges to deal with cases up to £35,000.00.

The first option is in line with the Gillen review, where there were recommendations for a single tier system in the County Court.

The second option would see a structure more in line with that in England & Wales (E&W), albeit the current County Court limit in E&W is £50,000.00.

It is envisaged that cases involving more complex issues, for example PTSD or more severe injuries, will continue to be dealt with in the High Court. We anticipate that provision will be made to enable parties to apply for a case to be listed for hearing before a High Court Judge.

Horwich Farrelly NI will be providing guidance and making submissions in relation to the proposed changes. Being at the forefront of litigation in England & Wales and Scotland, we are well placed to provide great insight in relation to the effect that each of the proposed changes could have. From a costs perspective, there is a real possibility that the proposed changes will be advantageous. Having matters listed sooner and also allowing cases that are below the new limit to proceed with a stricter application of the Court rules.

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