The government has unveiled plans to raise by more than £300,000 the limit to the value of property cases heard in the county court.
According to plans outlined in the House of Lords yesterday, the proposals will mean the county court can hear and determine equity proceedings up to a value of £350,000.
The plans update the County Courts Jurisdiction Order 1981, which set the limit at £30,000.
Justice minister Lord Faulks said the new statutory instrument will optimise the use of judicial resources and enable the High Court to focus more on complex matters that require greater expertise.
Faulks said the rationale behind the limit had always been to provide a benchmark for cases in the High Court, but the limit had become less effective as property prices rose.
‘This has resulted in many cases of relatively low complexity being heard unnecessarily in the High Court,’ he said.
‘In some instances, cases are issued in the High Court only to be transferred to the county court because the issues are straightforward.
‘In view of the administrative and judicial time taken to allocate these cases in the High Court and the time taken to reconsider them for transfer and the transfer itself, these transfers often result in delays in dealing not only with that particular case but with other cases.’
Increasing the limit was one of the recommendations made by the former Lord Justice of Appeal Sir Henry Brooke in his report in how to improve the civil courts system.
Two of his proposals – the establishment of a single county court and the repealing the need for the lord chancellor to deploy high court judges to the county court – will come into force in April.
Faulks said the government also proposes, subject to approval of parliament, to implement three more Brooke recommendations.
They are: extending the jurisdiction to grant freezing orders to the county court; bringing certain specialist proceedings under the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court; and increasing the financial limit below which non-personal injury claims and certain chancery proceedings may not be commenced in the High Court from £25,000 to £100,000.
The motion to raise the county court limit to £350,000 was backed by Labour peers and agreed in the Lords. It will now be added to the statute book in due course.