How can a Judgment Creditor decide whether enforcement action is worthwhile?

Creditors often commence county court action against a Debtor and obtain Judgment with little deliberation as to how they will recover the Judgment.

If a Judgment Debtor does not pay voluntarily, then the Judgment Creditor is left in a situation whereby they must take further action (enforcement) to recover the Judgment.

Before commencing enforcement action, it is important for a Judgment Creditor to consider whether it is worth enforcing payment of the Judgment, as if a Judgment Debtor has no assets, money spent on the enforcement action might well be lost without any prospect of recovery. It is therefore useful for a Judgment Creditor to obtain information about assets held by a Judgment Debtor to determine whether enforcement action is worthwhile. This information may also assist the Judgment Creditor to determine which method of enforcement is most appropriate.

A Judgment Creditor can obtain information under CPR 71. This Part contains rules which provide for a Judgment Debtor to be required to attend Court to provide information, for the purpose of enabling a Judgment Creditor to enforce a Judgment or Order against him.

The Judgment Debtor will be required to answer a standard series of questions on oath and produce documents in their control which are described in the Order. The Judgment Debtor may also be required to answer additional questions as proposed by the Judgment Creditor in the Application Notice.

CPR 71.8(1) provides that if the Judgment Debtor does not attend Court to be questioned or attends but refuses to take an oath or answer questions or produce documents, or otherwise fails to comply with the Order, the Court will refer the matter to a High Court Judge or Circuit Judge.

That Judge may, provided the Judgment Creditor has complied with rules 71.4 and 71.5, hold the Judgment Debtor in contempt of Court and make an Order punishing them by a fine, imprisonment, confiscation of assets or other punishment under the law (CPR71.8(2))

A recent high profile case concerning CPR 71 is that of Hijazi v Yaxley-Lennon [2022] EWHC 635 (QB) in which the Court held it had jurisdiction and should exercise its discretion to make an Order under CPR 71.2 for a bankrupt Judgment Debtor to attend Court to provide documents and answer questions under oath.

It was in this case that the Court held that the purpose of CPR 71.2 was to assist the Judgment Creditor in deciding whether to enforce the Judgment, whilst upholding that CPR 71.2 was not an enforcement method itself.

So, in situations where a Judgment Creditor has limited information, but must take enforcement action to recover a Judgment, it is worthwhile seeking information under CPR 71.

Judgment Creditors should however keep in mind that CPR 71 is not a form of enforcement that will result in a recovery of the Judgment; it is merely an opening to enforcement action, that could prevent the unnecessary loss of further time and cost.

Written by : Leonie-Robyn Murtagh, Associate Solicitor

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