“It surprises me that any of this is a surprise! I have seen numerous examples of this sort of thing over the years. A common one I get relates to issuing out of the District Registry of the High Court at a County Court. It is quite usual for the court staff to refuse to issue and say you need to use Salford instead. When you persuade them that they can issue and that you need to, they invariably still issue it using a County Court seal and claim number (I tend to have to do this in cases involving the equity jurisdiction of the county court which does not exceed £30,000; or in cases relating to solicitor and own client costs where the limit is only £5,000 and then only contentious business).
I have had urgent applications without notice sent back because the court staff consider it should be on notice and a higher fee is payable.
I have had them refuse to expedite urgent applications because I have not included a “certificate of urgency” signed by a “partner” even though I have signed the covering letter explaining the urgency in font size 16 bold underlined letters.
The best one ever was Worcester County Court purporting to make a costs order against the firm personally in favour of a litigant in person applicant on an application to set aside a statutory demand which our client didn’t attend (and of which no notice was given). Admittedly this was a DJ, rather than court staff, so it doesn’t fall in to quite the same category.
In the latter case I toyed with an application for re-hearing, or an appeal. IN the end I sent a pre-action protocol letter for judicial review of the County Court. No doubt there is some case law that this is not the correct thing to do, but I did it and it worked, and got an apology from the court manager saying there was a “mix up”.
I now make formal complaints to the Ministry of Justice about County Courts so often I have a template letter for it!
In all the examples in your blog, they are not judicial decisions, but administrative failings so I would probably do what I did against Worcester and write a Pre-Action Protocol letter for Judicial Review of HMCTS / MOJ for failing to do what they are obliged to do. Copy it to the MOJ 102 Petty France, London and the Treasury Solicitors Office. Unlike most dealings with the court, this does tend to get a prompt response.”
THE MODEL LETTER
I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to share information and I asked Dominic whether he would be willing to share his letter with us. Very generously he has done so and the template letter is below. (Remember this is a template and always needs to be adapted).
“FAO:-The Complaints and Litigation Team
Ministry of Justice,
102 Petty France,
Re:- Case Description
Claim Number:- Claim Number
Our Client:-Our Client’s Name
We are writing to make a formal complaint about the service we have received from the Court
Name County Court.
We act on behalf of Our Client’s Name, and the matter has a claim number of
The complaint arose on Incident Date. The background to our complaint is that:-
As part of that we paid a court fee of Fee Amount, which was sent on the Fee Date, and which we
can confirm was cashed by the court on Cashed Date.
Despite the above, the service has fallen below that which we and our client can expect. As a result
of the court’s conduct:-
Details of Consequences
We have tried to resolve the matter without recourse to a formal complaint, however this has been
to no avail.
Details of Chasing, or other attempts to resolve give dates names and what was done
In the circumstances, could you please kindly investigate this complaint as a matter of urgency and
update us as to your investigations.
FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT:-
• We DO wish this complaint to be logged on HMCTS RecordsRe:- Claim Number:- Claim Number – Case Description
• We ARE NOT complaining about a judicial outcome. Please do not write back and advise
us to appeal or that you can not give legal advice.
May we thank you for your assistance and help in this matter and if you have any queries, please
do not hesitate to contact myself or any of my colleagues on the above telephone number.”