What does it really mean to receive a ‘CCJ’?
You may have seen in the news that the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has recently been subject to a County Court Judgment; more commonly referred to as a CCJ.
Some of the comments I saw online around this news seemed to jump to the conclusion that the PM must have done something wrong to be subject to the CCJ.
Whilst having a CCJ against your name is not something you should aim for, and is usually the outcome of a case where the Claimant has won their claim, it does not in any way guarantee that the Defendant had done something wrong. In fact, a CCJ can be obtained against a person, company or other entity, simply because they did not take steps to defend the claim in the first place. That could be because the claim was not received (i.e. it may not have been properly served), or it may have just been ignored by mistake.
To understand how CCJs are obtained, you need to look to the basic practical elements of a County Court claim. In most cases, a Claimant will issue a claim in the Court for a sum of money. Once the Court has issued the claim, the Court (or the Claimant themselves in some circumstances) will then see to ‘serving’ the claim on the Defendant. In practical terms, this is a formal process that involves delivering the claim to the Defendant’s address. The Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”) which govern civil litigation set out how the claim can be properly served.
Once the claim has been served, the Defendant will need to ensure that they respond to the claim within the strict time limits set out in the CPR. If, however, the Defendant misses this step, then the Claimant is able to request default judgment.
What this means is that the Claimant will not need to take any further steps to prove the claim in order to obtain a CCJ. If they obtain default judgment, the Claimant has in a sense won the claim simply by the Defendant’s failure to take proper action. This is an important point because even if the claim has no merits, the Claimant can still obtain a judgment if the Defendant defaults.
Whilst we do not know exactly what happened in the case against the PM, it seems that default judgment was what brought about the CCJ.
If you were to find yourself in a similar situation, you would have the ability to apply to the Court to have the judgment set aside, provided you can prove why that should be the case. Indeed, it has been reported that the PM has made such an application and the claim has been struck out.
An application to set aside a CCJ must be made promptly. It is, therefore, essential that if you find yourself in a position like this, you act quickly to make the application. If the Court takes the view that you haven’t pursued the application properly, the CCJ may even stand. If you leave the CCJ altogether, you could even face enforcement action from the Claimant, which might include more drastic steps such as bailiffs seizing assets or bankruptcy (in the case of an individual) and insolvency (in the case of a company).
If you find yourself facing legal proceedings or need help in pursuing a claim, get in touch with one of our solicitors in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution team. Think of us as your legal problem solvers; we are here to help with any query you may have about legal proceedings.