Enforcement of Money Judgments

Enforcement deals with how a party can enforce the judgment of the Court.

In order to determine the debtor’s means it can be necessary to establish the assets that they have. This can be achieved by either instructing an enquiry agent to investigate the issue or apply to the Court for an order to obtain information from the debtor.

In order to obtain an order for information, the judgment creditor must file an N244 at the Court setting out the details of the debtor and what is sought from the Court. The hearing will normally take place at the County Court. Standard questions are asked and a written record of the answers will be produced. The debtor will be invited to sign the record at the conclusion of the investigation. If the debtor fails to attend, then a committal order can be made against them.

Methods of enforcement

There are a number of different methods of enforcement available to the parties in proceedings.  These include:

  1. Taking control of goods
  2. Placing a charge on a piece of land through a charging order
  3. A third-party debt order which may require a third party who owes money to the debtor to pay it directly in satisfaction of the judgment
  4. An attachment of earnings order, which can require an employer to make reductions from a debtor’s earnings to help clear the judgment debt.

Taking control of goods is governed by part 83 of the CPR. The job of collecting the goods can be delegated to a High Court Enforcement Officer or to bailiffs. They cannot enter a debtor’s home but they can use reasonable force to enter a business premises. The usual contents of a home or business premises can be seized. Certain items which are required for the basic needs of family life are excluded from these orders, including furniture and household equipment.

Where the judgment sum is less than £600 then the enforcement should be pursued in the County Court. If it is more than £600 but less than £5000 then it can be pursued either in the County or the High Court. If it is for £5,000 or more then it should be pursued in the High Court.

Charging orders are governed by part 73 of the CPR. The application can be made using an N379, an example of which can be found here. This will be filed at the Court. An interim charging order may be made without a hearing. The documents in support of the Interim Charging Order should be served on the debtor within 21 days. The debtor may then request that the Court’s decision as to an Interim Charging Order be reviewed by a Judge. They can request that review within 14 days of the Court’s initial decision.

If there are objections to a final charging order then anyone objecting must file and serve written evidence stating the grounds of objection within 28 days of the service of the ICO.

If the charging order is made then the creditor may then attempt to seek an order for sale of any property that is subject to the charge, but this involves separate proceedings.

Attachment of Earnings

Applications for attachment of earnings must be made to the County Court. The High Court has no power to make these orders. The procedure for applying is contained in Part 89.

Part 89.4 sets out the procedure for applying.

(1) An application for an attachment of earnings order must include a certificate of the amount of money remaining due under the judgment or order and that the whole or part of any instalment due remains unpaid.

(2) Where an attachment of earnings order is sought to enforce an order of a magistrates’ court, the applicant must also file with the application—

(a) a certified copy of the order; and

(b) a witness statement verifying the amount due under the order or, if payments under the order are required to be made to the designated officer for the magistrates’ court, a certificate by that designated officer to the same effect.

Part 89.5 states:

1) Notice of the application together with Form N56 (“the reply form”), must be served on the debtor by the court.

(2) The notice of application must include an instruction to the debtor to complete and file the reply form within 8 days after service, and that instruction constitutes a requirement under section 14(4) of the 1971 Act.

(3) Within 8 days after service of the documents listed in paragraph (1), the debtor must file a completed reply form.

(4) On receipt of a reply from the debtor, the court officer must send a copy of the reply to the creditor.

The application should be made to the County Court Money Claims centre. The Court will inform the debtor of the application and given them an opportunity tot either pay or provide a statement detailing their income and outgoings. The Court will make an attachment of earnings order fixing the rate to be paid every month. The order will be sent to the debtor’s employer with instructions to deduct the sum and pay it into the court. If either party objects they can apply for the matter to be considered by a district judge in the course of a hearing.

Enforcement outside the Jurisdiction

Effecting enforcement outside of England and Wales requires different steps to be taken depending on the jurisdiction.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the procedure is governed by Part 74 of the CPR. This requires the creditor to obtain a certificate confirming the date of the judgment, the sum awarded and the details of the interest and costs; then to make an application to the Court in Scotland or Northern Ireland to register the judgement within 6 months.

Within the EU, the process is governed by the Brussels Regulation 1215/2012. Foreign judgments can be registered with a local Court and then enforced in the same way using the laws of the host nation. The Withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK preserves the position for judgements given prior to the 31st of December 2020. After that stage, local laws of the host country will be applicable.

In the commonwealth, enforcement may be possible under the Administration of Justice Act 1920. For High Court Judgments and the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933 for County Court Judgments. The judgment must be final and registered within 12 months for the 1920 Act but under the 1933 Act the creditor has 6 years.

In other countries, you will have to advise your client on the local laws regarding the enforcement of foreign judgments.