Either side can ask the court to decide the case in their absence. If attendance has become impossible or difficult, the court might be prepared to adjourn the hearing to another date, especially if this situation has arisen due to circumstances beyond that side’s control. It would be wise to first approach the other side to ask whether they would be prepared to consent to an adjournment and provide a letter to this effect which could then passed on to the court in support of the application for an adjournment. The right to have the case heard in the absence of one side should not be lightly exercised. They can never be sure that some point will not arise at the hearing on which they would have liked an input or on which their input could have altered the result. Certainly, if there is some factual dispute of importance involved in the case, the absence of one side as against the other side’s presence could operate to their disadvantage.
But if one side does want the case heard in their absence, they must state this in writing to the court and the other side at least seven days before the hearing, send to the other side copies of any documents they have sent to the court which they want the judge to see, at least seven days before the hearing and confirm to the court that they have been in touch with the other side as required.
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.
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