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Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 3:52 pm
by AnnH
I thought it might be helpful to ask those of you who have been through the IPEC (preferably small claims track) about your experiences. Particularly with timescales and communication.

I filed a small and quite straightforward copyright infringement case with the IPEC SCT in August 2018.

My infringer did not acknowledge service of the claim within the stated 14 day timescale, so I submitted a request for Default Judgement but heard nothing. Very recently I found out he had filed a defence at the end of September 2018, and only now am I in possession of a copy of that defence.

I have not received a Directions Questionnaire.

I feel a discussion on court logistics would be helpful to those who are considering bringing a case, and to those like myself who have done so but who are in the waiting stage. It would be good to know what to expect and how long your cases took – I believe it can take up to 6 months from sealing a claim to judgement. I’m nearly 4 months in so far.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2018 4:56 pm
The court seems to be staffed by people with a civil service mentality that nothing is urgent. My one case at IPEC took ages to come to a hearing. When the hearing started my infringer stated that he had sent his one page outline of his defence some time before. The judge sent a clerk to look for it who returned some time later with the envelope with the received date 2 weeks earlier. The judge was not best pleased but has no say on how the court is run.

Be patient and expect massive inefficiency.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:37 am
by AnnH
I suspected as much Bob. I'm dismayed that I was never informed that the other party had lodged a defence two and a half months ago. And out of time too - that is counter to the court rules. I hope the Judge who eventually examines the case will strike that defence as a result. I was also surprised that my application for a default judgement was seemingly overlooked. If the IPEC SCT were overloaded with cases I could understand it, but apparently they don't have an overly high case load.

The other thing which worried me is that the court is pretty much impossible to get hold of. I made over 100 attempts to telephone them and the phone lines were unmanned. Emails aren't replied to either. Only by going higher up on the advice of an expert here did I get a one line response telling me about the defence.

I've been through the ordinary County Court Small Claims system and that was fairly efficient (the hearing took around three months).

How long did your case take in the end?

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:27 pm
AnnH wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:37 am
If the IPEC SCT were overloaded with cases I could understand it, but apparently they don't have an overly high case load.
They share a building with the bankruptcy court so it is quite busy. The system seems to be that the staff who handle the paperwork cannot be fired by the judges so the judges have to just ignore the mistakes the staff make.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:57 pm
by AnnH
I feel a bit sorry for the Judges.

If I haven't received a Directions Questionnaire by mid January I'll have to try and get in touch with somebody again. So it seems like several months is the norm in the IPEC.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:45 am
by Fatty
Your experiences mirror all the other users I know of. The Court bureaucracy runs at glacial speed.

Once a claim is served, they have 14 days to issue an acknowledgement of service and if they do that they have a little more time ( off the top of my head 28 days)

If they fail to do this, then you can request judgement by default. The catch is , nobody ever hears within 28 days whether or not a defence of acknowledgement has been filed.

As claimant the best way round this is to automatically ask for a a judgement by default after the notice period has expired. You will need to send form N215 certificate of service to say where and on whom you served. NB if you are serving a company at their registered address, you tick the last box marked other and then enter "registered office of the company". Accompany that with the N227 request for judgement by default ( amount to be decided by the court- assuming you have claimed additional damages for flagrancy / dissuasion )

Thereafter just sit back, relax and wait, then wait a bit ore and then wait a lot more. I have no idea what the current waiting time is, but I know of a case where judgement was requested 2 months ago in October and no response has been received from the court.

As you can imagine, as this is affecting all claimants then the court is snowed under with "whats happening" emails and on top of that I would imaging a fair number of defendants are emailing and phoning to tell the court "Google says its a scam". The result is communications have pretty much broken down and its near impossible to speak to anyone either by email or phone.

The good news is that at least their core activities appear to be ongoing and so eventually you will receive something in writing from the court. Either they will have accepted and granted your request for judgement, or they will have received the defence in time or before your request in which case your request for judgement will be declined and you will be told it is going for a hearing. You will probably get the date in this correspondence.

Very important, read its slowly and if it requests payment of a hearing fee, then pay immediately as if you forget, your case will be struck out and striking out cases for want of fee is the only thing the IPEC ever does quickly. in the one case I know about they did it when the fee was 4 days late !

Also included will be a suggestion of the court mediation service which is well worth asking for but only works occasionally. keep a record of you asking for it and point it out in court if the defendant dd not put themselves forward for mediation.

If you have requested additional damages then there will always be a hearing to decide those damages , even if you have specified how much you want, eg double , 4x or 20x the normal value of the work. Sometimes it confuses defendants when they see a request for judgement by default is declined and they mistakenly thing the case has been thrown out. This is not the case, it just means there will be a hearing to determine both liability and Quantum ... and some more court fees for the looser to pay.

Going back to your original question. Given that your case was filed in August it is now quite late, even by IPEC standards. The last case I know of the claim form was served end April , certificates and request for judgement filed end of May and he request was turned down at the end of June. So in short it took a month to hear. Since then I know things have got worse. I claimant has received his notice of judgement 9 weeks after his hearing whereas they used to be within the month and another case heard the first week of Nov has not received a notice of judgement.

I suggest you write an email as phoning is pointless. Key to it is a clear subject line. I would suggest something like:
"case number, no judgement, directions or date of hearing received".

Keep a copy. There is always the uncomfortable possibility they sent you directions with a request for a hearing fee and it went walkabout in the post. Hopefully they wont strike it out for want of fee if you can show you didn't receive it. Send a similar email once a month until you hear something.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:25 pm
by AnnH
Fatty, thank you so much for the detailed and very helpful reply, it’s greatly appreciated.

I must admit I was getting a bit concerned as to why my request for a Default Judgement (made months ago) was never responded to.

Aside from one email (which I aimed higher up towards Judge Hacon himself) none of my emails have been replied to, despite the clear headings. I am at a loss as to what I can do other than just to sit things out, which from what you’re saying appears to be common. My case is a simple one so I thought it might have gone through a bit more quickly.

I did ask for damages on top of the licence fee (x3).

Maybe they will accept my request for Default Judgement but haven’t got around to it, or maybe the defendant did get his paperwork to the court in time in which case I’ll have to wait for a hearing date.

The whole experience isn’t filling me with confidence and I feel a bit despondent. I’ll do as you suggest and try once again to chase whether Directions have been sent.

I do know that as of the end of October the case file had not been passed to the Judge and the clerk said they would do that.

Regarding mediation, when I did eventually get a copy of the defence (very recently) this contained a damning assessment of my character and the defendant made it clear he would not accept any responsibility for the infringement (which he had acknowledged). Given that he had replied to absolutely none of my pre-action communications and he ignored the letter before action, and did not send me his defence, his request for mediation is in my opinion another delaying tactic. I therefore refused this request by letter (not email) and I really don’t care if the Judge decides to dock me on costs because of it. The mindset of the defendant is such that any useful dialogue would be impossible.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Wed Dec 12, 2018 11:05 am
by AnnH
I made one final attempt to telephone the IPEC Small Claims Track this morning. For the first time, the phone was picked up by one of the two clerks. He seemed quite surprised that I hadn’t been able to get through before.

Anyway, he was able to look at my case on their computer system. The last event recorded was my request for a Default Judgement back in September. The clerk was unable to tell me if there had been any other movement, since they can only go by the spreadsheet. He did not know if the case file was with the judge or not.

I was told they had a bit of a backlog. They suggested I get back in touch after Christmas.

To cover myself I have emailed the clerk setting out the points of the conversation and expressing my concern that any Directions or Hearing information may have gone astray in the post, if indeed any had been sent.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Sat Dec 15, 2018 4:23 pm
by AnnH
I'm relieved to say my Directions arrived today and a hearing date for mid February.

Prior advice on prompt payment of the hearing fee is noted!

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2019 7:21 pm
by Fatty
Do let us know how you get on.

Be aware that after your hearing the court is taking a considerable time to issue the Notice of Judgement , so you may still be some time away from getting paid. I read of a hearing in early November where the notice of judgement was only sent out mid January. they normally only take a week or perhaps two. Hopefully the IPEC will be able to sort itself out soon.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 5:22 am
by AnnH
Hi Fatty, oh dear that's not good. So many people have told me the place is chaotic. I am dreading it a bit, and I'm leaving for court within the next hour. I will update later.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2019 8:02 pm
by AnnH
I had a chance to ask about the judgment situation this morning. As we know, the judgment runs from the date the judge decides the case and the person who has to pay is given so many days ( in my case the judge has given him 14 days to pay). However the judge said because there is a bit of a backlog just to wait a while before taking any further steps, should I need to. My defendant did not appear in court today so perhaps he will get in touch with the court tomorrow to ask for the verdict , otherwise he may have a bit of a wait before he finds out the size of the bill.

I will update my other thread with what happened in the proceedings.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2019 6:52 pm
by AnnH
I’ve been giving some further thought to the collection period today. Whilst in the courtroom I was told that I can communicate the result of the hearing to the defendant. That makes sense, given that we are litigants in person and we are expected to share information relevant to the case.

If the court is quite late sending out the Judgement I’m wondering where that leaves the defendant with respect to his CCJ - which I believe becomes active 30 days after judgement if he has not paid up. If he waits to receive the Order it could be too late to have the CCJ removed (other than a mark of ‘satisfaction’ after he has finally paid up). I wonder if defendants assume that they don’t have to pay up until they receive the Order from the court, even if that is several weeks down the line.

I suppose my question is, does the CCJ automatically become active a month after the ruling or does it only become active a month after the Court has sent out the Order? That seems to fly in the face of the ‘14 days after judgement’ timescale for paying up.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2019 8:31 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Ann,

I know you are using the term CCJ in the colloquial sense that most people understand, but the actual term is an enforcement order. You already have a sort of county court judgment (the IPEC is a county court for these purposes) and the judge will issue an order which sets out the amount of damages and costs which have been awarded to you. Once that order has been served, the clock starts ticking for the defendant (or as he now becomes known "the judgment debtor"). If he doesn't pay, or ask the court for a variation which would allow him to pay in installments, within the allotted period you can then go back to the IPEC and either ask for that court to issue an enforcement order or ask permission for the matter to be transferred to your local county court as this may be more convenient. The rules on this are contained in CPR Part 70, and Practice Direction 70. You will need to apply to your local county court using a Form N332A (for which there are guidance notes here). Your court fees for requesting this order will be added to the judgment debtor's bill, as will any costs of enforcement (eg bailiff's fees). If the debt remains unpaid for a considerable period (I hope this won't be the case!) you can also claim for interest be added to the total amount. If it becomes necessary to get a further enforcement order, say because the debtor has changed his address, you will need to use Form N446, but check with the clerks at the county court first before re-sumitting anything.

Re: Timescales for IPEC Small Claims Track Cases

Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2019 9:21 pm
by AnnH
Thank you Andy, that's extremely helpful. So for now I need to just wait for the judgement order to arrive before I can start thinking about getting paid (no matter how long it takes to be sent out by the court) after which an enforcement order of some sort would be the next step if he doesn't pay.

I have a bad feeling about this debtor - his closing email to the Judge yesterday (saying what he thought of me for bringing the case) was strongly worded. The Judge said I could write and inform him of the verdict but given his mindset I'm concerned that might antagonize him.

I will take whatever steps I need to in order to recover my loss. I am so surprised he has risked his personal and business reputation by allowing litigation and subsequently a judgement against him, for such a small sum I fail to see how that can be rational or worthwhile. He knows my level of involvement in the industry and that I blog on copyright matters from time to time, and that this matter becoming known is inevitable.