Updated: Feb 23
But it would be a fair question to ask what’s all the interest about.
Twenty years ago, High Court Enforcement Officers weren’t even on the radar of policy officials who were going to axe their predecessors, Under Sheriffs and Sheriff’s Officers, from the England and Welsh legal system. Research evidence was emerging from Warwick University that the county court enforcement was not meeting the expectations of users.
All this activity, and the potential exclusion of Sheriffs under the new Civil Procedure Rules in 1999, led to a group of Sheriffs getting together form the National Sheriffs Campaign. This group along with its supporters, lobbied for the retention of the Sheriff’s service, albeit renamed High Court Enforcement. Under Sheriffs and Sheriff’s Officers merged into the High Court Enforcement Officers Association.
Common Law - Enforcement, Bailiff Law
For those of us involved at this time (c.1998) the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine instigated a formal review of enforcement services. A Green Paper, Towards Effective Enforcement, was published introducing the idea of a “single piece of bailiff law”. You can buy a version of this document on Amazon today for $701.00. Looking back the reform of the Sheriff’s system and the gathering up of bailiff law, including the law of distress, into one single statute was a smart idea. In 2007 The Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act creating the statutory framework for all enforcement power to be regulated. It took until 2013/2014 for the details of that regulation to be thrashed out into the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 and the accompanying fee regulations in 2014.
The reforms recognized that the system of enforcement, which can be traced back to before William The Conqueror in England and Wales, is all about balance. It has to deliver effective enforcement in a streamlined and increasingly technological way. It is as if you the Amazon of the legal system! This is the point where the court’s judgment or the order gets paid or enforced by repossessing property or assets. Without a functioning enforcement system, judgments wouldn’t be paid, and possession orders would be left for weeks waiting for the county court system to set a date.
High court enforcement officers
High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) enforce judgments or order made in the High Court and County Court (CCJs). They operate in England and Wales, and according to Taking Control of Goods Regulations, 2013 they have the right to seize assets or repossess the property. The order which allows HCEOs to act is known as a ‘writ of control’.
What can high court enforcement officers do?
HCEOs are authorised under a Writ of Control that serves the order. That provides them powers to take control of their assets, repossess the property and gain entry to a property through the enforcement process following the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013. It gives the power to auction the seized properties to recover money and debts. The writ of control gives enforcement agents powers like Possession, Possession and Control, Restitution, Delivery and Assistance.
Writ of Control
Powers a Writ of Control provides to a High Court Enforcement Officer
The Writ of Control allows the selected High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO), to enforce the writ or order. An Enforcement Agent can visit the debtor to secure payment. This writ of control empowers the Enforcement Agent to take control of their assets. If payment is not made on time as agreed, the enforcement agent can trade or auction the debtor assets.
What are the powers of a High Court Enforcement Officer?
High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) have powers like the following:
They can execute a High Court Judgment in England and Wales, this includes the most commonly applied for High Court Writ, Writs of– Possession, Possession and Control, Restitution, Delivery and of Assistance
Can execute a County Court Judgment (CCJ) for a value of £600 and above, which can be transferred up to the High Court for enforcement.
Can execute an Employment Tribunal or ACAS Award
Can execute High Court Possession Order or County Court Possession order transferred to the High Court for Enforcement
Difference between a bailiff and high court enforcement officer
Bailiffs are agents directed to recover debts on behalf of either a creditor or the courts.
A high court enforcement officer is appointed by the court and collects money on behalf of the courts. They normally collect debts such as CCJs, VAT, income tax, national insurance, court fees and unpaid council tax.
Twenty years ago, we never envisaged that there would be various TV shows made about our work, but HCEOs do have an interesting life. For those of us who get the bug, it brings variety every day. HCEOs see all levels of commerce and humanity and must pick their way through the competing interests of the parties on the face of the Writ to achieve the best outcome.
One day an HCEO can be dealing with taking control of an aircraft, and the next day, taking control of a second-hand car. Either way, the CCJ or other form of Order must be enforced.
An HCEO cannot refuse a Writ which is sent to him or her in their name in a postcode they have said they will service. The art of it is to know the paperwork, the Regulations and the statutes to get the job done. The TV shows have shone a light on what we do. For creditors, more people now know about the High Court enforcement system and how to engage with it. For debtors, the consequences of not paying a CCJ are on the telly. Don’t allow a CCJ to get to this stage. Pay the debt, or if it reaches the judgment stage pay it as soon as possible to avoid additional charges being added.