'Solving Disputes In The County Court' - Shergroup Expects Every Creditor To Do Their Bit !!

The Ministry of Justice recently issued their 'Solving Disputes in the County Courts' consultation paper - and Shergroup CEO Claire Sandbrook is calling on all clients, creditors and those who work in the civil enforcement industry to make sure their views are known and voices heard on proposals that could have far reaching effects on the civil enforcement landscape in England and Wales.

Claire said:

'There may be many people out there who aren't aware that this consultation paper has been published, or who have not appreciated that tucked away within it are proposals that are of the utmost importance to creditors and the enforcement industry. As well as consulting on the implementation of provisions relating to court based enforcement methods already contained within existing legislation (Part 4 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007), this consultation paper also provides scope for respondents to make their views known on how the civil enforcement regime could be further improved in the future.'

This includes proposals that judgment creditors should be able to apply directly to the enforcement provider of their choice without the need to refer back to the courts for permission to do so once they are in possession of a judgment order.

Claire said of this proposal:

'I see this as giving the clearest opportunity yet for creditors to say that they wish to be allowed to have the choice as to whether their judgments are enforced by County Court bailiffs or the High Court Enforcement Officer of their choice - regardless of the value of the judgment debt and whether it is a Consumer Credit Act regulated debt or not.'

She added:

'This is something that creditor organizations and the enforcement industry have been calling for regularly for a number of years now - and I would urge all those who work within those sectors to use this opportunity to get their views across to Government. We may never get another chance to do so. We should not only be responding to the consultation but lobbying our MPs, Ministers, departmental officials and anyone in positions of influence to make sure that our views get across loud and clear and that this opportunity for well overdue radical change is not lost.'

The consultation paper was published at the end of March 2011 and is available on the Ministry of Justice website. Interested persons have until late June to respond with their views.

The paper covers a wide range of topics. Some of the chapters, such as those on new fixed costs regimes and the future structure of the civil courts in England and Wales, may only be of passing interest to many people in the creditor and enforcement industry - the chapter on alternative dispute resolution may be of more interest.

But it is Chapter 4 on Debt Recovery and Enforcement that all those with an interest in the enforcement world should take time to read, digest and respond to.

The chapter is largely concerned with implementing the court-based enforcement reforms currently contained within Part 4 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. The implementation of these provisions would bring into effect the following provisions:
  • Deductions under Attachment of Earnings Orders to be made by way of fixed tables.
  • Tracking of judgment debtors subject to AEOs via the HMRC database so that they can no longer avoid their responsibilities under the AEO merely by changing employer.
  • Allowing charging orders (but not orders for sale) to be obtained by judgment creditors in situations where the debtor is adhering to an instalment arrangement.
  • Allowing the Lord Chancellor to set thresholds below which charging orders and orders for sale cannot be applied for.
  • Introducing data sharing provisions that will allow the courts greater access to information on judgment debtors - the courts will then be able to use that information to advise judgment creditors on the method of enforcement that has the greatest chance of success.
The chapter does go wider, however, than just implementing Part 4 of the TCE Act. For example, it contains some very interesting proposals on streamlining the application process for, and extending the accounts that could be subject to, Third Party Debt Orders, as well as suggesting that in future all civil court based enforcement procedures should be carried out in the County Courts.

But clearly it is the question on allowing creditors greater choice in who enforces their judgment that offers the biggest potential prize of all.

Anyone who wishes to know more about the consultation exercise, where to find it, how to respond to it and how to go about lobbying in support of the proposals contained within it may contact either Claire Sandbrook or Chris Bell at Shergroup - they will both be only too willing to help.
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