The Daily Mail splashed yesterday on the system of civil court default judgments. "Families are being financially crippled by county court judgments they knew nothing about," they revealed. You will find out in Breaking Law how unsatisfied judgments come to be registered and what you can do about a judgment registered against you.
And here are some facts on how you can apply for a judgment to be set aside when you say you knew nothing about the proceedings. If the judgment is set aside, the registration of it will be cancelled.
1 You apply to the court which entered the judgment for the set aside. Unless the claimant consents, that will cost you a fee of £255. If you are on state benefits or other low income, you may be able to get the fee waived and should it transpire that the claimant has procedurally slipped up and that the judgment should never have been entered - it was an irregular judgment - then the claimant may well be ordered to repay to you any fee you have paid out.
2 Where the court papers never reached you because you had moved on from the address to which they were sent, that may- not definitely- mean that the judgment was irregular. If it was irregular, the court MUST set it aside and this is so even though you failed to apply promptly for the set aside. It will have been irregular if you had given the claimant your new address and they ignored it. And it will have been irregular too if the claimant otherwise had reason to believe that the address was no longer your place of residence or business and failed to take reasonable steps to find out where you were.
3 But even if the judgment was regular, the court has a discretion to set aside. It will need to be satisfied that you have a real prospect of successfully defending the claim if the judgment is set aside because you don't owe the money or you owe less than the judgment figure. That's where promptness comes in. The court may throw out your application if you did not make it promptly after finding out about the judgment. How long do you have? The period is not cast in stone. Some judges are more relaxed that others about how quickly you should have responded. You may have some explaining to do if you waited any longer than say a fortnight. However, as important as promptness may be, the court can still set aside where you have dragged your feet. The stronger your defence, the more inclined the judge may be to set the judgment aside.