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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: country court proceedings: appearing in court: hearings in chambers

Hearings before a district judge

The proceedings will usually be conducted relatively informally, with the claimant, defendant, any representative of the defendant and the district judge seated around a desk in an office. The court refers to this as a hearing ‘in chambers’.

District judges’ requirements may vary from court to court and you should comply with these.

Addressing the district judge

The district judge should be addressed as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ and conversation will usually be on an informal person-to-person basis. Correct protocol is to address your questions and answers via the judge, unless the judge allows you to speak directly to the Defendant. You will be expected to:

  • be deferential and polite
  • present the facts of the case honestly and in a clear and concise manner
  • produce evidence, when necessary, such as certificates of debt, to prove or support your application for the type of order being sought
  • listen carefully to points made by the district judge, defendant or representative and calmly explain your reasons for countering them, if and when appropriate
  • answer or clarify to the district judge’s satisfaction any relevant matters raised in the proceedings.

A district judge has wide-ranging powers and, like any judge, is always to be regarded as right on procedural matters. Obvious errors may be pointed out “With respect”. Similarly, criticism or adverse comment, even if considered to be unjustified, should be accepted gracefully and the case continued “With the greatest respect”.

Whatever the outcome of the hearing, once the district judge has made his or her decision it is customary for you to thank him or her.

In some courts, hearings before the district judge are heard in open court. In those courts the proceedings will be conducted along the more formal lines of the judge’s court.

Hearings before a court officer

The proceedings will usually be conducted informally in an office. When such hearings arise follow the guidelines above for a hearing before a district judge.

Report of hearings

As soon as you are able you should make a report of the hearing on form C20C including a precise note of the decision or order given (DMBM666240).