Going back to the mid-1990’s the Certificate of Judgment form N293A was a very under-used piece of paper.  It’s function then, as it is now, is to certify that a county court judgment or order has been made and is still outstanding.  This in turn allows a High Court Writ of Control or Writ of Possession to be issued, based the certified fact that there is a judgment or order to enforce.  As you can perhaps imagine High Court Enforcement Officers and enforcement agents working in their name must have lawful authority for the action they take.  This flows from the Writ itself, and the Writ must therefore be based on accurate court records.

So. the importance of the N293A in the enforcement process, and particularly between the county courts and the High Court, is vital.

As the process of digitization of the courts unfolds there could be a lot of gnashing of teeth on how to replace this form which does this vital function – and works well in the offline world.

As digitization is on the horizon this form’s function remains the same – to confirm there is an enforceable judgment or order which needs to be enforced – and we say – by High Court Enforcement Officers.

Ideally the county court database should be the starting point for moving the paper form into an online process.  The database in the county court system should join up all court business into one large database of all claims, their current status, and whether judgment has been entered, satisfied, or cancelled, and what judgments or orders remain outstanding to be enforced.  Sounds simple but we suspect HMCTS would have a lot of “issues” with this as their IT infrastructure may not have been designed to cope with one all embracing system.  The fix for this is to export all the data from all the various HMCTS databases into one main database – which to those of us who know anything about IT is not impossible to do.  Even archive records could be exported.

Let’s assume that this can be done and indeed already has been done by Registry Trust.

Now we would have a database of all court data in one place – and .gov.uk is a great place to start in allowing people to go to a central government website to get their judgment transferred.  These government pages of information provide access to the enforcement system in a way that going to a court – whether it be a county court or High Court do not.   We are really impressed with .gov.uk information pages!  The page “Make a court claim for money : Enforce a judgment” is the ideal place to put a link on applying for a certificate from the county court that a judgment or order needs to be enforced (see http://bit.ly/2MRby8U ).  The current form even has its only information page (see http://bit.ly/2YKnG2R ).

Our idea is that these pages go just a little bit further to give the judgment creditor the opportunity to apply for the certificate then and there – online.  So instead of downloading the form and completing it, the judgment creditor, or their advisor, fills in the form online and presses “submit”.  That form is then matched by some database wizardry in the background (based on claim number which is the unique identifier in the county court database) and if there is a judgment or order outstanding the N293A is produced.

At this point – the certification process that there is a valid judgment or order to enforce – will have been satisfied and this is crucial.  An image of the current N293A is set out below.  All the blue areas are the data fields that the current system asks for.  Going forward we are sure that Part 3 of the N293A can be updated to reflect a more streamlined approach and replace the old Praecipe system on which the Writ is based.

The next question is what is going to happen to the N293A – is it going to the enforcement provider of choice?  If so, can it be emailed to the HCEO’s office by HMCTS with a request that a Writ is issued?  Or could a Writ of Control or Possession be issued by HMCTS and sent to the HCEO?  The system can take care of the payment of any fee that needs to be paid.  High Court Enforcement Officers already have a cab-rank system in place for judgments and orders coming from Registry Trust where the HCEO is not named.  Most of thinking on how to streamline and make it easy to get to an HCEO has been done and tested – it’s getting the court system to dispense the N293A by way of consistent service delivery that is the problem!

Ultimately, we think judgment creditors may want to think about who to use – they already “shop around” for their HCEO of choice and we see no reason to funnel them down into a few choices – otherwise we are just replacing the High Court system with another county court bailiff system.

Instead we want the consumers of enforcement services to decide who they use to enforce their judgment or order – of whatever value and without red tape around the value or the type.  We want to see the Jurisdiction Order 1991 amended so that judgments under £600 can be enforced by HCEOs along with judgments resulting from default on consumer credit act agreements (which can be for any amount).

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