Practical Law Dispute Resolution often receives questions about various aspects of practice and procedure in the County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC) at Salford. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to visit the CCMCC and see for myself some of the practical and logistical issues that arise during the processing of pleadings, applications and correspondence. With this in mind, I thought that it might be helpful to compile a list of “hints and tips” for practitioners using the CCMCC. The list draws on the CCMCC’s own guidance, Help the County Court Money Claims Centre Help You, and includes a number of practical pointers gleaned from my visit to Salford, as well as covering issues raised by Ask queries submitted to us.
Part 7 claims seeking a non-monetary remedy cannot be issued in the CCMCC; nor can Part 8 claims. If your Part 7 claim includes a non-monetary remedy, it is not within the scope of the CCMCC and it will be returned unissued – as will any Part 8 claim. Such claims need to be issued in the relevant local county court, as the CCMCC administers claims which are “only for an amount of money, whether specified or unspecified” and does not deal with claims “for which special procedures are provided in the Civil Procedure Rules or practice directions” (PD 7A.4A.1).
However, it is possible to file a defence and non-monetary counterclaim in the CCMCC. In this situation, the non-monetary counterclaim will be processed in the same way as a monetary counterclaim, the only difference being the court fee payable. The CCMCC will log the defence and counterclaim and then issue directions questionnaires to all parties. Once directions questionnaires have been returned to the CCMCC, the case will be transferred to the relevant local county court, where a district judge will give case management directions.
Claims for issue must be sent to the CCMCC in hard copy. It is not possible to issue a claim electronically in the CCMCC (but see below in relation to applications).
If you have a claim which is close to limitation, you can (exceptionally) submit it through any county court hearing centre. The CCMCC suggests that you should allow at least five days for proceedings to reach it by post. If you have insufficient time left, you can submit the claim form and appropriate fee at any county court hearing centre. That hearing centre will date stamp the claim form and then forward it directly to the CCMCC for issue. There is a list of county court hearing centres in the Schedule to PD 2C. The contact details for each centre may be found on the Gov.uk court and tribunal finder.
- Although proceedings are started when the court issues a claim form at the request of the claimant, where the claim form as issued was received in the court office on a date earlier than the date on which it was issued by the court, the claim is “brought” for the purposes of the Limitation Act 1980 and any other relevant statute on that earlier date (PD 7A.5.1). The Notice of Issue generated by the CCMCC includes both the date of receipt of the claim form (in these cases, by the relevant county court hearing centre), as well as the date of issue – which should assist in cases where any limitation queries arise.
- As a practical point, if you need to submit proceedings via a county court hearing centre, you might wish to take along an extra copy of the claim form and ask the hearing centre to date stamp it for you, so that you can retain it as a “receipt”.
If you wish to stop a claim, act as soon as possible. If you no longer wish to issue a claim that has been sent to the CCMCC, email email@example.com as soon as you can. You must attach a completed Notice of Discontinuance and request a refund of the court fee. The sheer number of claims received at the CCMCC makes it impractical to locate the claim to prevent it being issued, but the court fee will be refunded if the request to stop the claim is received before issue. The CCMCC asks users not to stop the relevant cheque, as this can delay matters.
If you wish to serve the claim form yourself, mark it accordingly. To avoid confusion, especially if a covering letter becomes separated from its enclosures, any claim forms to be returned to you for service should be clearly marked with the words “Solicitor Service” (not with any different wording). The CCMCC can provide a stamp if necessary (requests should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Only provide the CCMCC with the number of copy documents actually required. The CCMCC only requires one copy claim form or application for the file, and one copy per defendant/respondent to be served; extra copies have to be destroyed. Practitioners are also requested not to send documents by multiple methods (for example, by email, fax and post) as this creates unnecessary duplication.
Include key information in correspondence. This may seem an obvious point, but given the high volumes of correspondence and documents received each day, it assists the CCMCC to process communications more quickly if covering letters identify which party you are acting for and quote the case number.
Try to avoid reformatting court forms when completing them. This can cause logistical difficulty when the forms are processed and printed at the CCMCC, as they may not fit into standard envelopes and/or the relevant addresses may not be displayed as intended (which could cause delayed receipt or lead to items becoming lost in the post).
Make sure that you use up to date forms. For example, Form N379 (Application for charging order on land) was updated as of 6 April 2016. Any applications made on the old form will be returned unprocessed, so to avoid potential delays, check on Practical Law or HMCTS form finder that you and your colleagues are working from the new version.
- Where the amount stated on Form N337 (for attachment of earnings) is higher than the original judgment amount, it is helpful if you explain the difference; for example, setting out any court fees, warrant or execution fees, or interest (in the latter case, you should state whether it is contractual or statutory, and how it is calculated). This will minimise the prospect of queries regarding any apparent discrepancy, and thus help to avoid delay. Since there is a small box in which to enter the total amount, it is acceptable to include the more detailed explanation/breakdown as an attachment to the form, or as a note on headed paper.
- Form N379 requires details of the judgment amount (including costs and interest) and also the amount still owing (again, including interest). Again, the relevant boxes on the form are small, so a more detailed explanation/breakdown may be included in section 8 of the form.
Know the size restrictions and the procedure when filing documents by email. It is possible to file acknowledgments of service, defences, replies and applications by email (subject to payment of any necessary fee; see further below). However, there are limits on the size of documents submitted electronically. For full details, see PD 5B and the HMCTS Email guidance (February 2016) to which PD 5B refers. However, the following points are especially key:
- The total size of the email (including attachments) must be less than 10 megabytes (mb).
- The entire email, when printed out, must not exceed 50 pages (a page being one side). This includes the covering email, attachments, embedded items and enough copies to serve on the required parties. (Local authorities and certain other organisations are exempt from this requirement.)
- Where you are taking any step in a case which requires a document or documents to be filed, you must not use more than one email. (In other words, a defence document or an application with supporting evidence cannot be sent through in tranches; it must be contained in one email of less than 10mb in total.)
- If a document is sent to the court by email, don’t send it again via fax or post.
When filing by email, complete the subject field carefully. If you are filing a document in the CCMCC by email, include both the case number and the document type in the subject field (for example, “A00YP321 Directions Questionnaire” or “A00YQ654 Defence”). This facilitates the automatic moving of documents into the appropriate folder for the attention of the relevant CCMCC team.
If filing applications in the CCMCC by email, use the dedicated email addresses where available. The CCMCC has email inboxes for specific types of application, and using these will direct your application to the appropriate team:
- Attachment of earnings: CCMCCemail@example.com
- Certificates of judgment: CCMCC-Certificateofjudgments@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk
- Charging orders: CCMCCfirstname.lastname@example.org
For any other documents, use CCMCCeemail@example.com
Be aware of the options for paying court fees for applications filed electronically. If your firm or organisation has opened an account, you can use Fee Account (quoting the relevant number). Alternatively, you can pay by credit or debit card. If you wish to pay by card, say so in the covering email (do not provide any card or bank details, though). You should also provide a contact telephone number and preferred contact time (Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 5.00pm) so that the CCMCC can telephone you to take and process payment.
Help With Fees applications can now be filed online as well as in hard copy. For further information, see https://www.gov.uk/get-help-with-court-fees. When an application is submitted online, a Help With Fees reference number is generated, which should then be written onto the top of the claim form or any application being submitted to the CCMCC.
Allow five working days before contacting the CCMCC for a progress update. Since most of Salford’s work is processed within this period, the CCMCC suggests that users wait for this period to elapse before following up with a phone call, email or letter.
Contact details for the CCMCC. Finally, for ease of reference, here are the CCMCC’s contact details:
County Court Money Claims Centre
PO Box 527
Telephone enquiries: 0300 123 1372 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm).
Email enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
E-filing and records: email@example.com (though note also the dedicated email addresses set out above).
Fax: 01264 347985
Hopefully some of these pointers may help you navigate the CCMCC process smoothly and efficiently.