Petty Debts Court Procedure
Updated 25 November 2013
What cases can be heard in the Petty Debt Court?
- consumer debts - eg value of faulty goods - up to £10,000
- actions for unliquidated damages and compensation not exceeding £10,000
- housing problems - proceedings for possession of property (eviction) or recovery of unpaid rent
- end of tenancies and lodgings - refund of deposits, unpaid rent
- employment problems - to recover pay in lieu of notice when dismissal is disputed
- debt recovery - for amounts up to £10,000
- maintenance orders - (these are heard at the end of the sitting after the Court has been cleared) - see Maintenance and Separation 8.27.10.L1
Petty Debts Court does NOT provide Interpreters - any person who has difficulty with both English and French should bring someone with them who can translate.
Where and when does court sit
- The Petty Debts Court sits in the Magistrate's Court, Union Street, St Helier, every Wednesday at 10.00am.
- The Court is a modern, light, airy room, and the judge and clerks do not wear wigs. The judge should always be addressed as Sir.
- The Court is administered by the Petty Debts Court Greffier, Mr David Mallet, and his team. His office is in the Magistrate's Court.
9.00 am - 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm - 5.00 pm (4.30 pm on Friday). Telephone 440454 or 440455.
Proceedings to recover debts
Before taking action
- Check that all other ways of dealing with the problem have been tried and failed. Have the parties spoken to each other? Has anyone tried to mediate, for example The Jersey Advisory and Conciliation Service (JACS)?
Have the consequences of a judgement been discussed?
- The Plaintiff (the person or firm who is suing) may not be able to recover the debt even after winning the case if the Defendant:
- leaves the island
- is self employed
- has no saleable assets
- is unemployed or on Welfare
- is under the age of eighteen
- The Defendant (person or firm being sued) may be credit black-listed if the case is lost. S/he may prefer to pay the claim rather than risk losing the action.
- The Plaintiff or Defendant may have to pay the legal costs of the other side if the case is lost. Even though it is not necessary to be legally represented, should the Defendant use a lawyer and win the appeal, then it may well be that costs are awarded to include legal charges. May also have to pay if the lawyer rate exceeds the taxed costs allowed by court.
- The Plaintiff will become a preferred creditor once judgement has been obtained against the Defendant. This means that if the Defendant is in financial difficulties and has other creditors the Plaintiff's claim will take priority over the other's (other than employees' wages and money owed to the Income Tax and the Employment and Social Security Departments) should the Defendant go en desastre.
Correct information and evidence
- Does the client, if Plaintiff, have correct information about the Defendant? If the address is incorrect a Summons may not reach the Plaintiff in time. If the Defendant is a company, the address of the company's registered office is necessary. This information can be obtained from The Companies Registry. See 13.13.6
- Does the client have any evidence for the claim, or defence evidence or witnesses, eg receipt for deposit, IOU if loan, photographic evidence, specialist witness.
Has the client worked out how much to sue for?
- It is possible to ask for interest at 2% above base rate to be added to the amount owed along with costs incurred. See 4.9.0 Interest on debts.
Letter before action
- Before starting court action, a letter should be written, stating that unless the claim is settled satisfactorily within a given time, court action will be taken. The letter may be written by the person her/himself, by the Bureau, or by a lawyer. In cases where large firms or a States Department are taking action, the letter will usually be written by their legal department. There is no fixed time limit for when court action can be taken after the letter. The letter should be sent by recorded delivery, and a copy kept. If a limited company is being sued, the letter should go to the registered address.
- Here is a sample letter before action,
|Your name and address
Name and address of recipient
I have not yet received a reply to my letter(s) dated ............................... in which I explained that I wanted my rental deposit returned.
Unless the full deposit of £ ................... is refunded within seven days, I shall take legal action in the Petty Debts Court for the return of the above sum, without further notice.
- Clients can conduct their own case and will be given assistance by the Petty Debts Court Greffier to complete documentation.
- The client will have to appear in court, although the process is not intimidatory, the client may prefer to pay for legal representation to avoid this. If the case goes en preuve ie disputed, a client may then find it helpful to have legal representation.
- Legal Aid is not normally available for Petty Debts Court cases unless it is a disputed case and the value of the claim is over £500. See 4.3.2 Legal Aid.
Small Claims Mediation Hearings
- At the first hearing of the proceedings and at any subsequent hearing, in relation to any disputed proceedings where the value of the matter in dispute does not exceed £5,000, the Court may direct that the proceedings be adjourned to a Mediation and Directions hearing.
- The date, place and time for the mediation will be fixed immediately by the Court and will usually take place within ten days (on a Friday morning). The Court may further direct that the parties to the proceedings each lodge with the Court a brief written statement of their case in relation to the proceedings and/or documents which are relevant to the dispute, by a specified time. If the case is technically complicated the Magistrate may adjourn the hearing for 6 weeks to allow time for both parties to file formal pleadings.
- The mediation will be conducted by a Relief Magistrate (Mediator) who, in the event of the dispute not being resolved will not thereafter take any further part in the proceedings.
- Any party to the proceedings may be represented at the mediation by a legal adviser or may, with the leave of the Court or the Mediator, be assisted at the mediation by a friend. However, no order shall be made for any legal costs.
- In the event of the failure of any party to the proceedings to attend at the correct time at the mediation, the Mediator may give such judgement against the party who fails to attend as could have been given by the Court at the first presentation of the proceedings before the Court if the party had then failed to appear.
- At the mediation each of the parties to the proceedings will be expected to make a verbal statement, not exceeding five minutes, as to the nature of their case and the Mediator will inquire into the nature of the dispute and will assist the parties to the proceedings in seeking to reach an agreement by way of settlement of the proceedings.
- If such a settlement agreement is reached then the Mediator will record in writing the terms thereof, the parties will each sign that record and will each be furnished with a copy thereof. If the settlement involves the dismissal or withdrawal of the proceedings then the Mediator will make an order to that effect. If the settlement involves the payment of any sum of money then the date by which any sum will be paid will be recorded and the proceedings will be adjourned indefinitely (adjourned sine die) subject to the right of any party, upon the giving of two clear days' notice to the other party and to the Court to bring the proceedings back before the Court for the enforcement of the agreement, in the event of any party failing to comply with his obligations under the terms of the settlement.
- If no agreed settlement is reached or, in the view of the Mediator, will be reached between the parties, within a reasonable time, the Mediator may then immediately proceed to a directions hearing.
- At the directions hearing the Mediator will give such procedural directions as will be necessary in order to prepare the case for trial:
- define the matters in dispute between the parties;
- ensure that any further appropriate mutual disclosure of documents is made between the parties;
- ensure that a date for trial is fixed as soon as is reasonably possible; and
- generally ensure that the proceedings are appropriately prepared for trial at an early date in as cost effective a manner as is possible
- The Mediator may direct that formal pleadings are not required and that the matters in dispute between the parties be defined by reference to a written note prepared by the Mediator or in some other manner.
- The Mediator will furnish all parties to the proceedings with a copy of such procedural directions and any such written note within one week from the mediation.
Steps to be taken if client is the Plaintiff
- Write letter before
- If action is not resolved - Visit the Petty Debts Court to collect forms, see para 3
- Decide date for Court
Complete 1 copy of a Claim Summary, and 2 copies of a Summons
- Deliver one copy of the Claim Summary and two copies of the Summons bearing original signatures to the Petty Debts Court Greffe.
- You attend Court hearing
- Defendant admits claim and pays. End of matter. OR
- Defendant fails to appear - judgement may be given in absence. Go to step 8. OR
- Defendant attends and contests claim. Magistrate directs that the proceedings be adjourned to a Mediation and Directions hearing.
- From step 7  Act of Court available at Petty Debts Court Greffe within 3 days.
- Act of Court taken to Viscount for enforcement
Steps to be taken if client is Defendant
- Receives letter before action
- a. Reach satisfactory arrangement to pay - action avoided. End of matter OR
b. Ignore letter
- Receives Summons for following Wednesday, go to Step 4; OR Receives summons too late for hearing
- Admits claim and contacts Plaintiff before hearing to pay (with costs). Action avoided. NB Deduct stamp duty
- Attends hearing to admit claim. Judgement against you. Ordered to pay claim and costs.
- Denies full claim, Magistrate directs that the proceedings be adjourned to a Mediation and Directions hearing.
The Claim Summary and Summons
- Two forms must be completed to take a claim to Court. The Claim Summary contains a written statement of the claim along with names of the Plaintiff and the Defendant together with the address of the defendant and the record of service. The Summons is a letter to the Defendant sent by Court officials on behalf of the Plaintiff. The forms can be obtained either from the Petty Debts Court Greffe, or by clicking on the above links and downloading.
- Both forms should be typed out (but CLEAR handwritten documents are acceptable). The Claim Summary must have space left at the bottom as Revenue stamps must be attached to one copy. Two copies of the Summons and the stamped Claim Summary are taken to the Petty Debts Court Greffe, together with a stamped addressed envelope to the Defendant. One copy of each form should be kept by the Plaintiff.
- The forms must be delivered to the Petty Debts Court Greffe before 3pm on a Friday in order for the action to be added to the Court list for the second Wednesday following or any subsequent Wednesday. NB Exceptions when bank holidays fall between posting date and Court date.
Points to consider when completing the Summons and Claim Summary - possible pitfalls
- It is important that caution is exercised when completing the Summon and Claim Summary. Inaccurate or lack of detail recorded on the Summons at the time of issue may subsequently render the judgement and enforcement ineffective.
- Particular attention should be paid to the following:
- Surname - correct spelling
- Christian names - where known otherwise initials
- Address - the law requires that the Summons is posted to the last known address of the defendant
- Where an action relates to a husband and wife separate copies of the Summons and Claim Summary should be posted to each of them irrespective of whether or not they reside at the same address.
- Where actions relate directly to either goods or services which have been provided, or termination of employment issues, further consideration needs to be given as to the correct identity of the defendant. In these instances consideration needs to be given as to whether the Summons should be issued against a:
- Named person
- Named person trading as (name of business)
- Limited liability company
- Plaintiff's are advised that when issuing a Summons or Claim Summary against a business or company that they should verify the name of the business and establish its registered office address with the Companies Registry at P.O. Box 267, 14-18 Castle Street, St. Helier, Jersey, JE4 8TP
The Plaintiff is not in Jersey
40. The Plaintiff should arrange to be represented by a Jersey lawyer or a debt collector.
What is the cost of Court action
- One copy of the Claim Summary must be stamped with revenue stamps obtained from the States Treasury on the ground floor at Cyril Le Marquand House, or accompanied by a cheque made payable to the Treasurer of the States. The amounts of revenue stamps payable are:-
|If the claim does not exceed £100
|If the claim is between £100 and £500
|If the claim is between £500 and £1,000
|If the claim is between £1,000 and £5,000
|If the claim over £5,000
- Legal costs incurred by the Plaintiff are usually ordered to be paid by the Defendant. Legal costs incurred by the Defendant who wins the case may, or may not, be recoverable from the Plaintiff as the Judge sees fit. When the Court awards costs, these are taxed costs which sometimes amount to less than the actual legal costs. When the case is undefended the costs are fixed and are per the standard scale.
- Where the claim (including contractual interest to the date of judgement but excluding other interest costs, charges, expenses awarded by the Court):
|does not exceed £100
|exceeds £100 but does not exceed £500
|exceeds £500 but does not exceed £1,000
|exceeds £1,000 but does not exceed £2,500
|exceeds £2,500 but does not exceed £10,000
Process - responsibilities of plaintiff
- Following issue of the Summons the action will be added to the Court list on the nominated Wednesday. The plaintiff will be required to attend the Court on the day that the action is called in order to progress the claim.
- If settlement is achieved between parties however, prior to 3.00. p.m. on the Monday preceding the Court date, the plaintiff can withdraw the claim by providing notice in writing to the Petty Debts Court Greffe. In this instance neither the plaintiff nor the defendant will need to attend Court.
- If more time to achieve settlement is required, or if either payment by cheque or part payment is made or offered by the defendant, the plaintiff may consider seeking an adjournment for either a set period of time (a specified number of weeks) or alternatively for an indefinite period (an adjournment sine die). In this instance the plaintiff will need to attend personally and advise the Court. Where actions are adjourned for a specific number of weeks the plaintiff must inform the defendant of the adjournment date and ideally this should be done in writing.
- Advice notes are available detailing the procedure for plaintiffs to resurrect actions which have been adjourned sine die.
PROCESS - responsibilities of defendant
- Failure to do anything on receipt of the Summons will inevitably result in a judgment being taken against a defendant.
- If the debt is acknowledged early contact with the plaintiff is advisable in order to negotiate a settlement with a view to avoiding judgment which may subsequently affect creditworthiness.
- Settlement with the plaintiff, either in entirety or phased payments, may result in the action being withdrawn, adjourned for a number of weeks. or an indefinite adjournment (sine die).
- If the claim is contested the defendant must either attend the Court personally or alternatively arrange for legal representation. Contested actions may be referred to mediation or alternatively the Court may direct parties to file formal written pleadings.
- A Summons to appear at the Petty Debts Court is posted to the Defendant by the Petty Debts Court Greffier at the address supplied by the Plaintiff. A Summons may also be sent by lawyers. Four clear days, excluding weekends and bank holidays, are allowed for the envelope to arrive. The Defendant is presumed to have received the Summons.
- If due to holiday, hospitalisation or having moved the Defendant does not receive the Summons in time s/he may miss the hearing. If this is the case and judgement is given against the Defendant in her/his absence, it may be possible to apply to have the judgement set aside.
- On the day of the hearing all parties should be present in the Petty Debts Courtroom before 10.00am. The Plaintiffs and Defendants names will be called and they should stand and answer 'Present'. The Judge then asks what the Plaintiff wishes to say, and s/he should say:-
'I seek judgement in the sum of £........., and an arrest on wages of £80.00 per week'. The Judge can order higher arrests for rent or maintenance arrears.
- The Judge should always be addressed as Sir or Madam. If the Defendant fails to appear, judgement may be given in her/his absence. If the Defendant contests the claim the Judge may direct that the proceedings be adjourned to a mediation hearing, see paras 20 to 30, or alternatively may adjourn the action in order that both parties file formal written pleadings.
- The Judge will give his judgement having given both sides the opportunity to speak. The Defendant may plead that s/he is willing but unable to pay the debt. In this situation judgement will be given and the parties told to reach an arrangement for staged payments. The judgement ensures the Plaintiff will be able to enforce payment eventually, if necessary using the Viscount.
The case goes 'en preuve' following a mediation hearing
- The Defendant may ask for the case to go en preuve. At this stage it is advisable to obtain legal representation (on legal aid if appropriate). The Petty Debts Court Greffier is available to advise both Defendant and Plaintiff on the procedure to follow next. The Plaintiff will be asked to file a statement of claim including any evidence available within 14 days. The Defendant is shown this claim, and then has a similar period in which to file an answer. The Plaintiff receives a copy of the Defendant's answer and then has further 14 days in which to reply. Once the written pleading phase has been completed either the plaintiff or the defendant can apply for a date to be fixed for a hearing. Having arranged a date the party who has taken the initiative is required to notify the other party in writing inviting them to attend at the Petty Debts Court Greffe to agree a date for the trial. If one of the parties fails to attend the meeting a date for trial will be arranged in their absence.
- Sometimes a Plaintiff or her/his lawyer will delay filing the claim. In this case the Defendant can apply to have the action struck out.
- On the day of the arranged hearing, all parties attend court along with any witnesses and lawyers. The Judge hears the case and decides the judgement, awarding costs as appropriate. Plaintiff and Defendant, or their legal representatives, question each other and any witnesses.
Act of Court
- Once judgement is given the successful party can collect the Act of Court from the Magistrate's Court Greffe after 48 hours. It may be possible to recover the claim from the other party by showing her/him the Act of Court obtained. If this is not possible, the Viscount's Department will attempt to enforce it.
Setting aside action
- If the original judgement was made in the absence of the Defendant, s/he may apply to have the judgement set aside. It is no longer possible to have the judgement set aside by arrangement with the Plaintiff. An application to set aside a judgement can only be made when the original judgement for the debt was taken in the absence of the defendant and credible evidence supports the view that the judgement was taken in error.
The application to set aside a judgement must be supported by a sworn affidavit (written statement sworn before an Advocate, Solicitor or Notary Public) which must detail the following information:
- the reason for the absence of the Defendant in court at the time the judgement was taken in default;
- an outline of a defence to the original claim;
- the circumstances and the date upon which the Defendant became aware of the judgement and what steps were taken to remedy the situation (payment made).
It is important that an application to set aside a judgement is made at the earliest opportunity after which there is an awareness that it exists.
- A Claim Summary and a Summons are completed in the same way as for an action for debt by the Defendant (who now becomes the Plaintiff), and delivered in the same way to the original Plaintiff (who now becomes the Defendant). The cost to set aside a judgement is on a sliding scale as per the original action.
- Expulsion of a refractory tenant - £25.00
- Separation and Maintenance - £25.00
- To abandon the benefit of a judgement (sliding scale as per original action) £6.00 - £40.00
- Fixing a date for trial - £25.00
- Provisional Order - £25.00
- Service out of jurisdiction - £50.00
- Substituted service - £50.00
- Taxing Bill of Costs - £37.50 each half hour
Useful leaflets available from Petty Debts Court
|Advice Notes for Persons Submitting Claims
- Records of judgments
Records of judgments are kept at the Petty Debts Court Greffe or the Judicial Greffe for Royal Court Judgmnents (over £10,000 from 1 June 2004).
Access to records of judgments
Records of judgments are automatically passed to the Jersey Business Brief for publication, to the UK Public Registry, and the Trades Advisory Bureau Service (TABS) in Jersey.
Anyone may enquire at TABS for information about a named person, but it is expensive, see 13.3.4 Credit reference agencies, private individuals do not normally use this service as there is a annual fee plus a fee for each search.