Method of Enforcement | Taking control of goods against a vicar

Updated: Mar 5

In the event that you find yourself in the unusual position of having a judgment to enforce against a vicar, you will be pleased to know that the court rules cater for this eventuality and that your judgment will be enforceable.

If the person who owes the money (referred to as the “judgment debtor”) under a County Court Judgment or another form of a court order, is a vicar then a procedure exists for the goods of the vicar to be seized and sold by auction if he or she does not pay the judgment debt. However, the procedure is not covered by Schedule 12 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act and the Writ is expressly not a Writ of Control. Instead, a creditor of a vicar would follow the process set out below.

The creditor would have to issue a Writ of Fieri Facias de Bonis Ecclesiasticis. This requires the bishop of the diocese in which the vicar is appointed as a member of the clergy to seize the debtor's ecclesiastical property in order to satisfy a High Court judgment.

As Writs of Fieri Facias de Bonis Ecclesiasticis are unique and extremely rare, and because of the special role of the bishop, they are not renamed under the 2007 reforms (nor are they subject to the new unified procedure detailed in Schedule 12 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007).

They are referred to in the Civil Procedure Rules Part 70 as being outside of the Rules in relating to the Schedule 12 procedure.

What do I have to do to start enforcement?

The usual route is to apply for a Writ of Fieri Facias Bonis Ecclesiasticis against the vicar.

This follows the same procedure as if you were applying for a Writ against any other debtor. You will have a money judgment that needs to be enforced, and the Writ that gives the High Court Enforcement Officer the authority to enforce the judgment comes in the form of this special Writ.

What happens once the Writ is issued?

The High Court Enforcement Officer responsible for enforcing the Writ must then make a special return on the Writ indicating that no goods were recovered and if it is found to be the situation, that the vicar has no “lay fee”. Lay fees are referred to in the Magna Carta going back in English history to 1211 AD! Effectively they are payments made to members of the clergy for payment of their pastoral services.

What happens next?

An application would need to be made to seek the Court’s permission to issue a Writ of Fieri Facias De Bionis Ecclesiastics.

The application is made on the General Application form and is supported by a witness statement giving the following information |

  1. identifying the judgment or order to which the application relates

  2. if the judgment relates to the payment of money, then evidence of the amount of the original judgment and the amount due at the date of the application (allowing for additional interest and costs)

  3. any other information necessary to satisfy the court that you are entitled to enforce the judgment

  4. and most importantly, confirmation that the debtor is a vicar

Providing that the court is satisfied with the information provided it will grant the permission sought. The court may alternatively order that additional information be provided so that a final decision can be made.

What happens once the new Writ is issued?

Once the Writ of Fieri Facias De Bionis Ecclesiastics has been issued it is sent to the Bishop responsible for the Diocese within which the vicar resides.

The Bishop will then enforce the Writ in the same way as a High Court Enforcement Officer and will make a return in the same manner.

What if the vicar is in receipt of a “lay fee”?

In these circumstances’ enforcement will proceed by way of a normal Writ of Control, without the need for separate applications being made to the court.

Next Steps

Let us help you make the best choice for enforcement for your CCJ.

Remember this type of situation – enforcing a member of the clergy – is extremely rare so best to come to TEAM Shergroup if this crops up. We will find out from the Court exactly how they want to deal with this to ensure the application is made and the Writ is issued.

You can upload a copy of your judgment to our website at Upload

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