Enforcing Judgments Virtually

Where a judgement is obtained in relation to a debt and that debt remains unpaid, The Tribunal, Court and Enforcements Act 2007 (“the Act”) sets out the process by which an enforcement officer can take control of the debtor’s goods and either sell items to satisfy the judgement or enter into a payment plan with the debtor. This is known as a controlled goods order or CGA. The usual practice would see the enforcement agent physically attend the debtor premises to make a schedule of the items which he intends to take possession of.

However, in the case of Just Digital Marketplace Ltd v High Court Enforcement Officers Association the High Court has recently decided that it is not necessary for the enforcement officer to physically enter the premises where the goods are held in order to make a CGA. In this case, the enforcement officer was proposing to obtain a debtor’s consent to carry out a virtual visit to the debtor’s premises via online video in place of arranging a physical appointment.

The High Court Master decided that physical attendance at the debtor’s premises was not necessary prior to entering into a CGA. The wording of the Act did not provide that it was mandatory for the agent to enter the premises to take control of the goods or to enter into a CGA.

Court users have seen a seismic shift towards virtual hearings as a result of the Covid pandemic, so it is little surprise that enforcement agents are looking to similarly embrace virtual appointments when it comes to enforcement.

The leading enforcement associations have invited the Ministry of Justice to consider issuing additional statutory guidance in light of the judgement on the process that should be followed if re-entry is required, and what fees might be applied. It will be interesting to see what guidance, if any, follows.

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