Updated: Nov 30, 2020
A High Court Enforcement Officer, or HCEO for short, is a court appointed official who is responsible for enforcing judgments and orders of the High Court. HCEOs were created by statute in 2004 and are successors to the Sheriffs who were created as long ago as 992AD in England by the Anglo-Saxon system of government.
History of High Court Enforcement
When William The Conqueror invaded England in 1066AD, he used the Sheriffs to manage his new kingdom through their power and network. The Sheriffs Office is, therefore, the oldest secular office next to the Crown in the United Kingdom. Back in 1066, the Sheriffs were responsible for collecting the taxes, raising the army, and summoning jurors, as well as dispensing justice and enforcing the court's orders.
Through the centuries these powers have been taken on board by other agencies, and by the 1992AD, the Sheriffs were responsible for enforcing court judgments and orders in England and Wales. In 1998, the then Lord Chancellor decided to reform the system of court enforcement and the Sheriff system was updated so it became accountable to the Government and no longer directly to the Crown.
The Courts Act 2003 made way for the new title of High Court Enforcement Officer to be used and in 2004 specific Regulations relating to the appointment of HCEOs were implemented. Today HCEOs cover the 105 postcodes of England and Wales to enforce court judgments and orders of both the High Court and County Courts. Foreign judgments can be transferred to the High Court for enforcement including those from Scotland, Eire, the entire EU, and Commonwealth countries.
HCEOs are personally responsible for the enforcement of any judgment or order sent to them and are named in the form of Writ which is issued. This important document sets out the judgment or order and bears the seal of the High Court. The Writ gives the HCEO direct authority to enforce the judgment or order which generally involve recovering money or property for the claimant in civil court proceedings. Statute and accompanying Regulations along with National Standards ensure that the HCEO performs his or her duties in accordance with the law and with a fair and balanced view.