Citizens Advice Bureau

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LOCAL INFORMATION


4.9.2.


Petty Debts Court - Trials

Extent: Jersey
Updated: 9 July 2015
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Words you may need to know

 

Plaintiff -        the person bringing the case

Defendant -    the person defending the case and against whom a complaint is made

Magistrate – the judge of the Petty Debts Court

Taking a case to trial  - taking your case (problem) to the Court for the Court to give a judgement (decide an answer)

 

Preparing for your case

 

If your case has been sent to trial you will need to prepare for your court hearing. However,  the Court may give instructions on what has to happen. This is called ‘issuing directions’.

 

Disclosure

 

Disclosure’ means that you have to disclose or share the information you have with the other side.  Sometimes that is not going to be very helpful to your case, but you have to hand the information over anyway. The Court may make an order for disclosure of certain things eg your bank statements for the last three years or it may make an order for ‘full disclosure.’ This means anything which is related to the case has to be given to the other party. It might be documents, invoices, emails, text messages, or telephone recordings.

 

Fixing the date 

 

There are costs involved in taking a case to trial so always think about whether it is worthwhile. For example, if you are the Plaintiff , you have to pay a £30.00 administration fee to the Magistrates Court. If the debt is over £3,000 the court fees are £300.00 per day or part of a day.

 

Both you and the Defendant will have to attend court to fix the date for the trial of the case. Dates are usually fixed at the Magistrate’s Court office at 9.30am on a Thursday morning. If you intend to call witnesses, you should check when they are not going to be available in the next three to four months so that the court staff  know and so that they won’t arrange a date for the trial when your witnesses will be absent.

 

Giving your Evidence to the Court ( ‘Filing your evidence’)

 

When you file your evidence before the Court it has to be provided in a special written document called an ‘Affidavit’. An affidavit is not something you can really write yourself. It is usually advised that you get the help of a lawyer or a legal person called a ‘notary public’ to help you prepare it.

 

An Affidavit is a statement of facts, written in date order, about what you know to be true. It is what you saw, did or heard yourself. What someone else saw, did or heard is not allowed to be in the affidavit as that is called ‘hearsay evidence.’ It is not allowed to include ‘hearsay evidence’ in an Affidavit for it is not totally reliable because you yourself you did not see or hear what happened.

 

The Plaintiff and the Defendant and every witness who is to give evidence have to file an affidavit with the Court. All the affidavits should be given to the Court or court staff either by the people involved (‘the parties’) themselves or their lawyers. You should keep copies for yourself.

 

Filing of Bundles

 

A bundle is a collection of all the documents containing information relating to your claim that the Court will look at to decide on the outcome. You will need to put together four bundles of all your documents. Two have to be delivered to the Court, one given to the other side and one you keep for yourself.

 

Each bundle must be identical and the pages need to be numbered. You need to put an index at the front of what the information is and what page number it is on. You also need to prepare a list of your witnesses and give their full name, date of birth and place of birth.

 

If you try to put forward evidence on the day of the court hearing which is not in the bundle, it is unlikely that the Magistrate will allow the evidence to be heard.  The Magistrate would have to agree to it and the other side are likely to object.

 

Witnesses

 

You may find that some people are reluctant to be witnesses for you. If you have asked them and they have said no, you could ask the court to ‘summons’ them because the Court can insist that your witnesses attend.

 

Sometimes someone with expert knowledge of the sort of matter being discussed is needed to give an opinion. They are called ‘expert witnesses’ and they are usually experts in their subject. Examples might be a Trichologist for hair/ scalp problems or a Surveyor for a building problem.

 

Giving evidence

 

During the trial, all the witnesses must be prepared to speak. They must be warned in advance that they may be questioned about what they say. So they will need to bring with them any evidence that supports what it is that they are going to say. For instance, if they have a text message from you that backs up what you have said, they need to bring the phone with the message on. If an email was sent then a copy needs to be brought to Court. There is no point in anyone coming to Court without the evidence to back up what they are going to say.

 

The Magistrate might decide that expert evidence is necessary before the evidence that has been provided can be considered or ‘allowed to be admitted’.  eg An email might need an IT expert to say it was sent and received at a certain time.

 

If it is impossible for a witness to attend court (perhaps because they are ill or not in the Island) the Magistrate can allow written evidence to be presented but  the other party would have to agree to it.

 

How the Court works

 

The Judge is called the Magistrate. When you need to speak to or answer the Magistrate you must stand and say ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ depending if the Magistrate is a man or a woman.

 

When the case is called, the witnesses will be sworn in. That means they have to take an oath or affirmation and swear (promise) to tell the truth. If a witness lies he/she commits perjury. This is a crime for which you can be fined or sent to prison.

 

If you are the Plaintiff bringing the case you will be asked to give a brief outline of what the case is about and you can mention what evidence you have or what evidence your witnesses will give.

 

Your witnesses are then called in to give their evidence. After they have done so, the defendant can ask questions of them. This is called ‘cross-examination’

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The Magistrate is allowed to ask questions while a witness is giving their statement but the Defendant and Plaintiff must wait until they are told they can do so.

 

The Defendant then outlines his case and gives his evidence and calls his/her witnesses.

 

Apart from the Plaintiff and the Defendant, the other witnesses are not usually allowed in Court until they are due to give their evidence. After they have given their evidence they can ask if they can stay. It will be down to the Magistrate to agree if they can.

 

Once in the court, you should not leave unless you have been told you can by the Magistrate.

 

Once you have given your evidence, you must not speak to anyone about the case (or anything that happened in Court) until the case is over. If the information gets to be heard by anyone who is waiting to give their evidence, that may mean that their evidence cannot be admitted.

 

While evidence is being given, it is wise to write down what is being said so you can ask the other side questions if you want to when your turn comes.

 

The Judgement

 

After all the evidence has been heard, both the Plaintiff and the Defendant will be asked to sum up or ‘summarise’ their case. This is the last chance you have to put forward your point of view. The Magistrate will then decide the case and give a verdict. This might not be on the same day if he/ she wants to go away and consider his/her decision.

 

If either the Plaintiff or Defendant are asking for any legal costs they have incurred as a result of the case the Magistrate will rule (decide) on that question too. Both parties will be able to put forward their views (a submission) to the Court before a decision is made.