Lawyers form group to fight changes feared in High Court debt moves

LAWYERS have united in a new body to fight expected Government moves to shift High Court smaller debt proceedings to the County Court.

The High Court Users' Association for Commercial Debt, will lobby the Lord Chancellor to retain the High Court facility for issuing proceedings for debts of up to u5,000.

The association, whose members handle all types of commercial debt, says the High Court sheriff's system is faster and more effective than the bailiff system operating in the county court.

Richard Seadon, association chair and debt manager at Kent firm Pritchard Joyce & Hinds, says: “We are all concerned that the High Court facility is going to disappear. There appears to be a tendency to scrap this.”

Seadon says one reason behind the association's fears is the slashing of fixed solicitors' costs for issuing proceedings in the High Court in January. The lowest tier of costs is now only u20 compared with u56 in the county court, and this is encouraging a drift of work to the county courts, he says.

The association wants a sizeable increase in solicitors' costs in the High Court, arguing that the u5 increase announced on 15 August is insufficient.

A spokeswoman for the the Lord Chancellor's Department says that it is “not actively considering” plans to shift smaller debt work onto the county court.

The association also wants to see a register of High Court judgments similar to the county court system and standardisation of sheriffs' services

Its initial membership numbers around 20 and includes Bermans, Eversheds Hepworth & Chadwick, Thomas Higgins & Co, Davies Wallis Foyster, Banners, and Barr Cleary. British Aerospace is the first corporate member.