In part six of our debt claim series, we look at the hearing where the parties make representations to a judge about their case. While this series is designed to serve as a basic introduction to the process, our solicitors can provide you with specialist help, advice and court representation tailored to your specific requirements.
The hearing is where the parties make representations to a judge about their case. The judge will then deliberate on what they have heard and make a binding decision based on the facts that they have been able to ascertain during the hearing.
Do I have to attend?
You should always attend a hearing if possible. Even though you can instruct your solicitor to attend County Court on your behalf, it is generally better if you accompany them to the courtroom unless there is a good reason why you cannot do so.
This is because the judge may have questions that only you can answer. If the entire case hinges on a question that only you can answer, you may not be successful in your claim if you are not there.
If you don’t attend, and the other side does, the court is going to hear all of their evidence in person – and none of yours – which may convince them to find for the other side. This is not worth the risk.
Can I bring a friend for moral support?
You cannot bring a friend into the courtroom with you – but your solicitor will be there with you. You may also bring an interpreter, with the judge’s permission, should you need one to understand what the judge is saying.
Your solicitor will have a Right of Audience – this means that they can address the court. As a party to the matter, you have Rights of Audience as well, but nobody else (aside from you and your legal representative) may speak on your behalf.
So, I can represent myself?
Technically, yes. You can attend court without your solicitor and present your own case. However, if you have used a solicitor up until this point, they will know the intricacies of your case and will fight vehemently on your behalf. It’s worth noting that litigants in person (people who represent themselves) are held to the same standards – of knowledge and professionalism – in litigation as seasoned professionals with decades of experience.
Depending on the complexity of your case, your solicitor may wish to instruct a barrister to speak on your behalf. While this is an added expense, barristers, are professionals at advocating in court – they do this job daily – and your solicitor may advise you that this will be an effective decision.
When should I arrive?
Your solicitor will generally meet you at the court in plenty of time. They will make sure that you are comfortable and ready and answer any last-minute queries you have about the process. They may run through your case with you one more time or give you a breakdown of what they think will happen in the courtroom.
What will happen next?
When it is time for your hearing, one of the court ushers will invite you into the courtroom. You and your solicitor will sit together at the front of the court. If you have instructed a barrister, your solicitor may sit behind you, while the barrister sits next to you. The other side will sit on the other side of the table from you. The judge will be between the parties.
When can I talk about my case?
Hold your horses! The judge will review the file they have in front of them and will then proceed to open the hearing up in an organised manner. First of all, though, there is generally a bit of housekeeping to be done regarding reviewing the time allocated for the hearing or dealing with preliminary issues – such as reviewing the evidence. Sometimes, if the judge does not feel as though a sufficient amount of time has been allocated to hear the case, they will adjourn – postpone – all or part of the hearing until a later date.
This means that you will have to come back to court later, but if this is the case, the judge should make a clear order and make sure that there will be enough time to resolve the matter next time around.
In more straightforward cases, like a small debt recovery matter, the court will most likely hear the matter at the first instance – so you won’t have to go away and come back at a later date.
What will happen in the hearing?
Both you and the other side will be allowed to present your case to the judge (if the other side shows up!) and then the judge will consider all of the evidence provided. This evidence can be tested by cross-examination and interviewing witnesses of fact and experts who have come to provide evidence (although it’s unlikely that you will see experts in a small debt recovery matter).
After the judge has heard all the evidence, they will make their judgment.
This will be posted out by the court several weeks after the hearing, but the judge may inform you at the time and allow your solicitor to make a note of it in the room.
The claim will either be dismissed (in which case the defendant has ‘won’) or judgement will be awarded for the claimant.
This judgment will be binding on all of the relevant parties – which means that they will have to abide by the terms of the judgment. It might say, for example, that the other side has to pay you a set sum of money. If they fail to do so, you can apply to the court to enforce the judgment.
Read the full debt claim series here:
Debt Claim Series Part 1: The process of a simple small track debt claim
Debt Claim Series Part 2: Issuing a claim or having a claim issued against you. What to do?
Debt Claim Series Part 3: I’ve just received a claim form… What do I do?
Debt Claim Series Part 4: Defence filed… What next?
Debt Claim Series Part 5: Evidence, Disclosure and Inspection
Debt Claim Series Part 6: The Hearing
Debt Claim Series Part 7: Judgment Day
Have you been served with a debt claim by the court? Are you owed money either as a debt or having lent money and want to claim it back? This series is not to be deemed legal advice and the only way to ensure you have correct advice relevant to you claim is to contact us to assist. Contact Hamed Ovaisi on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01323 407555 at any time to discuss your matter.
SO Legal Solicitors Eastbourne – 01323 407555
SO Legal Solicitors Brighton & Hove – 01273 069920
SO Legal Solicitors Hastings – 01424 709050
SO Legal Solicitors Uckfield – 01825 729840
SO Legal Solicitors Notting Hill – 0203 9677700