Contested hearings will be conducted by the same judges as hear the majority of other county court cases (District Judges) and small claims will be decided according to the same law as is applicable to those other cases. That is the law of England and Wales and the same law as would apply to a case heard by the Supreme Court. So if the law is against one side, they cannot win the case simply because it is a small claim.

Importantly, the treatment of costs is different in the small claims process [HL] – the normal rule ‘costs follow the event’ does not generally apply.

Anyone who wants to see whether they would be prepared to present their own small claim in court or would like to sample the court environment and see how things work before the hearing of their own case can visit a local county court. There they can look in on similar cases as small claims are normally heard in public. The court office will be able to say when the next small claims are due for hearing, if telephoned.


Thanks to District Judge Stephen Gold, who has presided over the small claims track for some 17 years, for allowing us to use his guide to the small claims process.

Author: Jon Robins

Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon’s books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council’s journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year’s Criminal Justice Alliance’s journalism award

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