95County courts and county court divisions
For sections 1 and 2 of the County Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 there shall be substituted the following sections— “County courts to be held for divisions.
1(1)For the purposes of this Act, Northern Ireland shall be divided into such divisions as the Lord Chancellor may by order specify.
(2)A court shall be held for each such division at such place or places as may be specified in directions given under section 2.
(3)A court held under subsection (2) shall—
(a)subject to subsection (4), be called a county court and be a court of record ;
(b)have, throughout the whole of the division for which it is held, the jurisdiction and powers conferred on a county court by this Act or any other statutory provision.
(4)The county court so held for the division which is or includes—
(a)the area of the city of Belfast shall be called the Belfast Recorder's Court;
(b)the area of the city of Londonderry shall be called the Londonderry Recorder's Court. Provision as to holding of courts.
2The Lord Chancellor may give directions as to—
(a)the places at which county courts are to be held;
(b)the number of ordinary sittings of county courts which are to be held each year;
(c)the ordinary hours of sitting of county courts;
(d)the nature of the business to be transacted by any county court at any place;
(e)the cancellation of any sitting of a county court for which provision has been made under this Act where there is no, or insufficient, business to be transacted at that sitting; and
(f)such other incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary matters as appeal to the Lord Chancellor to be necessary or proper.”.
96Times of sitting of county courts
For section 4 of the County Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 there shall be substituted the following section— “Times of sitting.
4(1)Subject to any provision made by virtue of section 2, in each year the Lord Chancellor shall—
(a)on or before 1st May, appoint the days for the holding of the ordinary sittings of the county court for each division for the period of 12 months commencing on 1st September next following; and
(b)on or before 1st July cause notice of the days so appointed to be published.
(2)Before appointing the days for the holding of the ordinary sittings of the county court for a division under this section, the Lord Chancellor shall consult the Lord Chief Justice and the county court judge assigned to that division under section 102.”.
97Civil jurisdiction exercisable by circuit registrars
(1)After section 61 of the County Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 there shall be inserted the following section—
Civil jurisdiction exercisable by circuit registrars. 61 A.—
(1)Subject to subsection (3), any action in which the amount claimed, or the value of specific chattels claimed, does not exceed £300 shall, save as otherwise provided by county court rules, be heard and determined by a circuit registrar in accordance with those rules.
(2)Any order, decision or determination made by a circuit registrar by virtue of subsection (1) shall for all purposes (including the right of appeal) have the like effect as a decree pronounced by a judge and shall be embodied in a decree accordingly.
(3)Where in any action to which subsection (1) applies the amount claimed, or the value of specific chattels claimed, does not exceed £200 the circuit registrar shall, save as otherwise provided by county court rules, deal with the claim by way of arbitration in accordance with those rules.
(4)Save as otherwise provided by county court rules, no costs shall be awarded in connection with an action which, in accordance with subsection (3), is dealt with by way of arbitration.
(5)In its application to an arbitration under subsection (3) the Arbitration Act (Northern Ireland) 1937 shall have effect with such modifications as may be prescribed by county court rules.
(6)References in subsections (1) and (3) to an amount claimed include references to a balance claimed in the circumstances mentioned in section 10(1)(a) (b) and (c).
(7)The power conferred by Article 8(2)(a) of the Administration of Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 1975 on the Lord Chancellor, after consultation with the Lord Chief Justice, by order to increase the sum specified in any of the statutory provisions set out in column 1 of Schedule 1 to that Order shall include power so to increase the sums specified in subsections (1) and (3).
(2)Her Majesty may by Order in Council——
(a)direct that sections 71(1), (2) and (3), 76(1)(a) and 82(3) of the Magistrates' Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 (which impose financial limits on the jurisdiction of courts of summary jurisdiction in debt and ejectment proceedings) shall have effect with the substitution for the sums for the time being specified in those provisions of such higher sums as may be specified in the Order;
(b)abolish any civil jurisdiction exercisable by courts of summary jurisdiction;
(c)confer on circuit registrars any civil jurisdiction additional to that for the time being exercisable by them under or by virtue of any statutory provision.
(3)An Order in Council under subsection (2) may make such incidental, consequential, transitional or supplementary provisions (including the amendment or repeal of any statutory provision) as appear to Her Majesty to be necessary or proper for giving full effect to the provisions of the Order.
(4)No recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty in Council to make an Order under subsection (2) unless a draft of the Order has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.
98Appointment and assignment of county court judges
For section 102 of the County Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 there shall be substituted the following section— “Appointment and assignment of judges.
102(1)Her Majesty may appoint as judges such qualified persons as may be recommended to Her by the Lord Chancellor.
(2)A judge shall sit in the county court in accordance with directions given by the Lord Chancellor.
(3)A judge may, in accordance with such directions, sit as a judge for any division.
(4)Subject to subsections (2) and (3), the Lord Chancellor shall assign one judge to each division and may from time to time vary any such assignment.
(5)The judge assigned to the division which is or includes—
(a)the area of the city of Belfast shall be styled the Recorder of Belfast;
(b)the area of the city of Londonderry shall be styled the Recorder of Londonderry.”.
99Qualifications of county court judges and deputy judges
(1)In section 103(1) of the County Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 for the words from " unless " to the end of the subsection there shall be substituted the words " unless—
(a)he has practised for not less than ten years at the Bar of Northern Ireland ; or
(b)he has been a deputy judge for not less than three years.".
(2)For section 107 of the County Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 there shall be substituted the following section— “Deputy judges.
107(1)The Lord Chancellor may appoint as deputy judge—
(a)a person who has previously held the office of judge;
(b)a person who has practised for not less than ten years at the Bar of Northern Ireland;
(c)a resident magistrate ;
(d)a solicitor who has practised for not less than ten years as a solicitor in Northern Ireland.
(2)The appointment of a person as a deputy judge shall specify the term for which he is appointed.
(3)Subject to subsection (4), the Lord Chancellor may, with the agreement of the deputy judge, from time to time extend, for such period as he thinks appropriate, the term for which the deputy judge is appointed.
(4)Except where an appointment is made under subsection (1)(a), neither the initial term for which a deputy judge is appointed nor any extension of that term under subsection (3) shall be such as to continue his appointment as a deputy judge after the end of the completed year of service in which he attains the age of seventy-two years.
(5)A deputy judge shall, while he is so acting, have the like authority, jurisdiction, powers and privileges as a judge in all respects.
(6)Where the hearing of any proceedings duly commenced before any deputy judge is adjourned or judgment is reserved therein, that deputy judge shall, notwithstanding anything in subsection (2) or (4), have power to resume the hearing and determine the proceedings or, as the case may be, to deliver the judgment so reserved.
(7)There shall be paid to every deputy judge, except a resident magistrate, such remuneration and allowances as the Lord Chancellor may, with the concurrence of the Minister for the Civil Service, determine.”.