The Civil Court Users Association (CCUA) is is calling on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HM Tribunals and Courts Service (HMCTS) to consider far greater involvement by private sector court users in the enforcement of Judgments and Possession Orders to address performance issues.
The call follows reports that some property possession appointments in the London area are not currently proceeding due to a lack of appropriate PPE for County Court bailiffs. With delays worse than they have ever been, communication notoriously difficult, and hearings continuing to fall over following the pandemic, this is another deterioration in service for the civil court users who CCUA works on behalf of to drive improvements.
Rob Thompson, Chair of the CCUA, said “Bailiffs are undertaking a difficult role and must have adequate protection, but civil justice is only finally served if a Judgment or Order can actually be enforced. With possession appointments, the situation is particularly urgent as court users are potentially continuing to lose money on a day-to-day basis. Whatever the reasons for this position concerning inadequate PPE, it is sadly a continuation of the decline of the County Court bailiff service.”
“Many court users gave up instructing the County Court bailiff to enforce money Judgments years ago due to performance concerns. In recent times, those users who have continued, have seen the introduction of Warrant of Control Support Centres. Before a warrant is passed to a bailiff, the court initially attempts to collect the Judgment debt over the telephone. This was introduced without consultation and often replicates steps which have already been undertaken by the court user themselves, thereby serving little purpose other than to create unnecessary delay.”
“No doubt it does sometimes result in payment. However, if HMCTS felt that such a Support Centre would add value, then this could have been introduced as an additional option at the enforcement stage, disconnected from the instruction of the court bailiff, and at a much lower, proportionate fee. Instead, many users feel that the Support Centre is simply an attempt to delay or altogether avoid providing the service which the court user has actually requested and paid for – an attendance by a bailiff.”
The CCUA has long called for greater private sector involvement in court enforcement, including (with appropriate safeguards and fees) the increased role of High Court Enforcement Officers in the enforcement of Judgments in respect of Consumer Credit Act regulated debts and debts under £600.
Thompson added “I sincerely hope that priority will be given to applications to transfer up to the High Court and that such applications will be viewed swiftly and favourably given the current situation, to ensure that access to justice can continue to be provided. I’m sure that possible consideration of an expedited process would also be welcomed during these difficulties.”