A new guide has been signed off by the Chancellor, and been issued. The County Court at Central London (“CCCL”) is the venue for the Business and Property work done in London and the South East outside the High Court. It does not have the force of law and is not a substitute for the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”) and Practice Directions (“PDs”). The Guide is accompanied by 3 annexes. For a Precedent Draft Directions please visit the Central London County Court page at www.ihtbar.com
The Guide states (amongst other things):
‘Scope of Business & Property work
4. The Business & Property work undertaken at CCCL includes the following:
4.1 Work of the type within the Property, Trusts and Probate List of the High Court such as:
Landlord & tenant (both residential and commercial). The most complex/valuable business tenancy renewal cases will proceed as Business & Property work
Contentious probate claims
4.2 Work of the type within the Business List of the High Court such as:
Claims for specific performance, rectification and other equitable remedies
Professional negligence (for example, claims against solicitors and surveyors).
4.3 Insolvency and Companies work. This includes personal insolvency cases, company insolvency work transferred from the High Court or other County Court hearing centres, disqualification of directors, and company cases (for example, unfair prejudice petitions, claims to restore companies to the register, to rectify the register, and to extend time for the registration of charges).
5. That list is not exhaustive. A full definition of Business & Property work in the County Court can be found in para. 4.2 of CPR PD 57AA – Business and Property Courts.
11. Cases are usually transferred to CCCL by the High Court at an early stage. They are listed for a costs and case management conference (Part 7 claims) or for directions or disposal (Part 8 claims). These first hearings are short, usually between 30 minutes and an hour, and are not a trial. They are used to move the case towards trial where there is any substantial dispute.
12. All cases, whether transferred to CCCL or issued here, will normally be retained by the judge dealing with the case at the first hearing. That judge will, if at all possible, hear the trial and any pre-trial review.
13. Unless otherwise ordered, there should be sent to the Court by email 3 days before the first hearing the following documents (agreed if possible): a brief case summary (of not more than 500 words), a list of issues, and proposed directions (using our template – see the next paragraph).
14. Case management directions in Part 7 claims will normally be given by adapting the draft directions template attached at Annex A to the particular case. Parties should therefore use such template when agreeing and submitting proposed directions. Part 8 claims are typically decided without cross examination or disclosure.
16. The subject heading of the email must start with the claim number. Business & Property cases are given a case number taking the form G10CLxxxx, where the initial letter indicates the year (F having been used for 2019, and G being used for 2020), 10 designates the case as Business & Property work, CL refers to CCCL, and there is then a unique 3 or 4 digit number.
17. The directions will normally provide for the listing of the trial and will do so by (a) setting a 3-month trial window, and (b) directing a telephone listing appointment. That appointment will usually be around 3 weeks after the case management hearing. The standard order for the telephone listing appointment forms part of the template at Annex A.
18. An interim application may be issued by (a) sending an Application Notice in form N244 by email to email@example.com if the legal representative has a fee account or payment is to be made by card, (b) leaving the application in the dropbox located by the first floor counter, or (c) sending the application by post to the court at County Court at Central London, Royal Courts of Justice, Thomas More Building, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, or by DX to DX 44453 Strand.
19. The Court staff aim to put applications in Business & Property cases before a judge within 5 to 10 working days of receipt. But if the case has been assigned to a particular Circuit Judge at the first hearing, the parties are encouraged to email a copy of the issued application to the judge’s clerk in order to bring it to the judge’s early attention.
20. The Circuit Judges generally hear Business & Property applications each Friday. An application will normally be listed on the first convenient Friday after two weeks. Applications to be heard by District Judges will be listed for a convenient date.
21. There is, however, a process for applications that cannot wait. It is to be used only for applications that are genuinely urgent. An example is an application affecting a trial that is less than four weeks away.
22. The urgent Application Notice should be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org . The body of the email should contain a succinct statement of reasons as to why the application is urgent and cannot wait to be heard in due turn. The email and attachment will be shown to either HHJ Dight CBE or HHJ Johns QC as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made for the application to be heard.
23. If the application has yet to be issued, an urgent appointment for issue at the first floor counter in the Thomas More Building should be made using the appointments telephone number 0207 947 7502.
24. There is no out of hours service. Any parties requiring such a service should use the Royal Courts of Justice emergency telephone number, 020 7947 6000/6260, and request the Duty Chancery Judge’s clerk.
28. In order to avoid disruption to other litigants and to ensure that each case does not take more than its proper share of court resources, parties will be required to complete each trial in the time allotted save in exceptional circumstances.
29. It is therefore important that time estimates for trial are realistic. Such estimates need not include time for preparation of judgment (as this will be added by the judge as appropriate) but should include time for judicial pre-reading. For guidance, parties will often be required to attend only from 11 am in a 3 day case, from 12 noon in a 4 day case and from 2 pm in a case of 5 days or more.
30. Skeleton arguments should, unless otherwise ordered, be sent to the Court at least 2 days before the trial to email@example.com (to reach a Circuit Judge) or firstname.lastname@example.org (to reach a District Judge).
31. An indexed and paginated bundle of documents for the trial should, unless otherwise ordered, be delivered to Court at least 3 days before the trial. Parties should arrange delivery of the trial bundles directly with the judge’s clerk if possible. Otherwise, they can be lodged at the first floor counter in the Thomas More Building between 9 and 10 am.
32. If settlement or some other development means that a trial listing can be vacated or shortened, the parties must inform the Court immediately (by emailing the trial judge’s clerk if possible) so that the time saved can be used for the benefit of other litigants.
33. Robes will be worn for trials, appeals, applications for committal, and directors’ disqualification hearings. Robes are not otherwise worn.
34. If a draft order is requested by the Court following a hearing such will normally be required within 2 working days and should be sent by email (to the Circuit Judge’s clerk if the case has been heard by a Circuit Judge) and be in Word format. Like other documents in the case, orders should be marked “Business & Property Work”.
39. CCCL has an independent mediation service administered by CEDR available to all parties to help them resolve their disputes. Each mediation takes place in the court buildings after court hours, is confidential, without prejudice and is conducted by an accredited mediator. The total cost to the parties is £900 plus VAT, usually shared equally. A party in receipt of legal aid may recover his/her share of the cost as a permitted disbursement. Further details of the mediation service and an application form are available at https://www.cedr.com/solve/clcc/’