Can you set aside a County Court Judgement?

Is it possible to cancel or set aside a County Court Judgment (CCJ)? How can you apply for a CCJ set aside?  And what grounds can you have for setting aside a CCJ?

If you or your business are asking any of these questions, this article by experienced Commercial Solicitor Chris Clayton could help explain how to deal with the situation…

In recent months, we have received a reasonably steady line of enquiries from various different people and businesses seeking advice on setting aside CCJs.

When speaking to clients, it usually transpires that what they are actually seeking to object to are judgements entered in default. These are easy to confuse but they are in fact two very different things.

County Court Judgements

A CCJ is entered against a judgement debtor when they have lost a claim and failed to pay on time or failed to pay the judgement entered in default on time. The CCJ is registered with credit reference agencies and can be very damaging to the debtor in respect of credit scores and the ability to secure further lending. This applies to businesses as much as it does to individuals.

Judgement in default

By contrast, a judgement in default is where a party to litigation has failed to adhere to the litigation process in some way. Typically, this arises where defendants are served with legal proceedings but they do not respond in time. Where that happens, the claimant is entitled to seek judgement from the court. If that judgement is not satisfied in time, it can then be registered as a CCJ against the debtor.

The distinction is key because different procedures apply to setting aside judgements in default and CCJs.

Can a CCJ be set aside?

A CCJ can only be set aside in exceptional circumstances, most commonly where the CCJ was entered in error. It would not be an error to enter a CCJ where the defendant has failed to respond to a claim, even if the defendant would have had a valid defence to the claim.

Judgements in default can be set aside where there is a reasonable prospect of defending a claim and where the court agrees in the circumstances of the claim that defendant should be allowed to defend the claim. While success is never guaranteed in any court application, it is far more likely to be granted than an application to set aside a CCJ.

Avoidance is always the best defence

In my experience, the key is to avoid getting into this position as far as possible. When you are served with legal proceedings, you should never ignore them and hope that they will go away because that does not happen.

The correct procedure when served with proceedings is to defend the claim or acknowledge service within 14 days. Where service is acknowledged within 14 days, that buys an additional 14 days to serve a defence. That gives a total of 28 days from the point of service to serve a defence. If you cannot serve a defence within that time, you should seek an extension of time from the claimant. If the claimant refuses to grant an extension, an application to the court for an extension can be made.

If you are out of time to acknowledge service or to serve a defence, you should seek to set aside the judgement in default as promptly as possible before a CCJ is registered. Whilst there are court fees involved in applying for extensions or setting aside judgements in default, the hassle attached to dealing with a CCJ is far greater than dealing with these straight forward procedural points to avoid having a CCJ registered against you in the first place.

Avoid the stress with expert advice

It is stressful to be served with proceedings, however, we can take that stress off you and deal with it on your behalf.

If ever you are served with proceedings and don’t know what to do, get in touch and we will advise you on the process and assist you with the dispute.

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