How Does High Court Enforcement Work? | A Bitesize History of High Court Enforcement

Updated: Apr 27


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.


What can high court enforcement officers do?

A High Court enforcement officer (HCEO) is an officer of the High Court of England and Wales responsible for enforcing judgments of the High Court, often by taking legal control of goods or recovering land and/or property. Prior to 2004, HCEOs were known as Sheriff's Officers and were responsible for enforcing High Court Writs on behalf of the High Sheriff for each bailiwick in England and Wales. Today High Court Enforcement Officers are personally responsible for the enforcement of Writs issued in their name. They take the place of the High Sheriff in terms of this responsibility.


What are the powers of a High Court Enforcement Officer?

High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) have greater powers than other court officers. They can execute any of the following:

  • A High Court Judgment in England and Wales include the most commonly applied for High Court Writ, as well as Writs of Possession, Possession and Control, Restitution, Delivery and of Assistance

  • A County Court Judgment (CCJ) for a value of £600 and above, which has been transferred up to the High Court for enforcement.

  • An Employment Tribunal or ACAS Award

  • A High Court Possession Order or County Court Possession order transferred to the High Court for Enforcement


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 G