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Enforcement procedure

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Enforcement procedure

A court can issue a judgment, but it cannot compel a debtor to make payment pursuant to the judgment. Should a debtor fail to pay following judgment, the only way to pursue further recovery is to refer the matter to the Enforcement of Judgments Office, or the EJO, as it is known.

The EJO is a statutory body, empowered to recover or enforce judgments, where possible. The EJO have a centralised system and deal with all Orders within Northern Ireland. Upon receipt of a full enforcement application, they will assess the debtor's position and decide which Orders will be issued dependent upon the debtor's means.

The EJO will levy a scale fee depending on the amount of debt being claimed. It is worth bearing in mind that it cannot recover what is not there, and you may wish to consider applying for a Discovery Order as to the debtor's means at the appropriate stage.

The procedure

Notice of Intent to Enforce (Form 1)

Fee

The fee applied is £20 for each debtor and/or each address which you wish to serve the notice on.

What form do I need?

Notice of Intent to Enforce (Form 1) which can be located at Northern Ireland Court Service.

What is claimed within the document?

  • The Judgment sum
  • Interest thereon
  • Any costs awarded by the court
  • And the EJO outlay of £20 per debtor/address

What do I need to enclose?

  • Duplicate notice
  • Copy decree/judgment
  • Cheque payment to 'Enforcement of Judgments Office'

What does the court do?

The EJO will serve this notice on the debtor and no further action may be taken for 10 days from the date of service. You will receive a covering letter with your notice number, a barcode (for EJO use) and confirmation of the date the notice was served. Should there be no response, and you wish to proceed with the next step, you can then either make an Application for Full Enforcement (Form 3) or an Application for Discovery (Form 6).

(Please note the notice itself will be valid for a period of three months only and will lapse thereafter).

What does the application mean?

A notice of intent to enforce must be issued prior to an Application for Full Enforcement, or Discovery. This is formal notice that you intend to take enforcement action against the debtor in respect of the unpaid judgment/decree.

Application for Full Enforcement (Form 3)

Fee

The fee for this application will depend on the value of your debt to be recovered. There is a scale that is applied and can be located on the Court Service's website. This fee is recoverable from the debtor. Please note the EJO will award £12 in respect of costs of this application together with the full enforcement outlay fee that must be paid.

What form do I need?

Full Enforcement Application (Form 3) which can be located at Northern Ireland Court Service.

What is claimed within the document?

  • The judgment sum
  • Interest thereon and up until date of the application
  • £12 towards costs, these are added by the EJO
  • The EJO outlay fee

What do I need to enclose?

  • Application form
  • Copy decree/judgment
  • Copy receipt of Notice of Intent (Form 1)
  • Cheque payment to 'Enforcement of Judgments Office'
  • Enforcement questionnaire and any supporting documentation

What does the court do?

Upon receipt of an Application for Full Enforcement and the requisite fee, the EJO will issue you with a receipt, a case number and request the debtor attend for interview, to ascertain their current financial status, whether property is owned etc., and produce a 'Means Report'. This is a report compiled by an enforcement officer after interviewing the debtor which assesses the debtor's ability to pay any monies owed. If you have specified in your application that the debtor owns their own home and provided a certified copy of proof of ownership, then the EJO should issue an Order Charging Land (OCL) without the need to interview.

If the debtor fails to attend for interview, the EJO can issue a Warrant of Arrest against the debtor. (At this stage, the debtor will appear in 'Stubbs Gazette', which may well have a negative impact on their ability to continue trading and/or obtain credit).

Depending on the contents of the Means Report, the EJO will, where possible, implement the appropriate measures in an effort to secure payment.

It is important to note, however, that the EJO cannot guarantee recovery, especially if the debtor has other judgments registered against them in priority to yours, or if they have disposed or indeed dispose of their assets in an attempt to avoid payment.

Please also note, that the use of these powers may take a considerable period of time, and the EJO costs, although recoverable from the debtor if enforcement is successful, can be substantial. Careful consideration must be given to whether an enforcement application is worthwhile.

What is a Warrant of Arrest?

If the debtor fails to comply with the request to attend for interview, the EJO will issue a 'Conditional Order for Issue of Warrant of Arrest'. The EJO will issue this Order to the creditor. This is an Order which must be personally served on the debtor which instructs them to appear at a local court for examination as to his/her means. The order will include requests for the production by the debtor of all books, documents and things in his/her possession relating to his/her means.

Failure to attend this examination will result in a warrant for his/her arrest being issued. If the debt relates to a company, then the director, officer or servant of the company will be summoned.

Service requirements

This Order must be personally served on the debtor and it is the creditor's responsibility to deal with this. A minimum of three attempts must be made before an Application for Substituted Service can be made, and service must take place or be deemed (in the event of substituted service) to have taken place 8 clear working days prior to the scheduled examination date. In addition to service, a viaticum fee (i.e. for travel expenses) must be paid and included within the service of the Order to the debtor (see Court fees (Northern Ireland)). Upon service, you must inform the EJO of the exact date and amount of viaticum that was served on the debtor. This must be done prior to the scheduled examination date.

What if I can't serve the order after three attempts?

Retain a note of your service attempts and write to the EJO with details of these. Within your letter request an Order for Substituted Service for the Conditional Order.

The EJO will cancel the scheduled examination date and reissue another. You will be given a fresh Conditional Order for Warrant of Arrest with a fresh date and time for the examination together with an Order for Substituted Service. These documents together with the viaticum can be served on the debtor by first-class post.

Are there fees attached to this Order?

Yes, this order must be personally served on the debtor and may incur an agent's fee for this personal service. You can serve this on the debtor/company debtor yourself to avoid these fees. In addition to this, you must pay the debtor a viaticum 'a fee to cover the debtor's bus fare for this round journey from his place of home to the local court specified within the Order'.

What happens after the examination date?

If the debtor attended on the examination date, the EJO will produce a report as to their means. This is the Means Report.

If the debtor did not attend the examination date and upon clarifying service details, the EJO will issue a Warrant for their Arrest and send this to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for execution. The PSNI upon arrest of the debtor bring him/her to the EJO to be examined on oath. The PSNI have one year to execute this Warrant.

Application for Discovery (Form 6)

Fee

The fee for this application is £150.00 and is recoverable from the debtor should you decide to pursue the matter to a Full Enforcement Application.

What form do I need?

Application for Discovery (Form 6) which can be located at Northern Ireland Court Service.

Are there any limitations?

Your debt, together with interest and previous awarded costs, must exceed the limit of £3,000 before you are entitled to claim for a Discovery Application.

What is claimed within the document?

  • The judgment sum
  • Interest thereon and up until the date of the application
  • £12 towards costs, these are added by the EJO
  • The EJO outlay fee

What do I need to enclose?

  • Application form
  • Copy decree/judgment
  • Copy receipt of Notice of Intent (Form 1)
  • Cheque payment to 'Enforcement of Judgments Office'
  • Enforcement questionnaire and any supporting documentation

What does the court do?

Upon receipt of an Application for Discovery and the requisite fee, the EJO will issue you with a receipt, a case number and request the debtor attend for interview to ascertain their current financial status, whether property is owned etc., and produce a 'Means Report'.

If the debtor fails to attend for interview, the EJO can issue a Warrant for Arrest against the debtor. At this stage, the debtor will appear in 'Stubbs Gazette', which may well have a negative impact on their ability to continue trading and/or obtain credit.

This is an application merely to provide you with a 'Means Report' with details of the debtor's financial circumstances to enable you to make a more informed decision on whether the debtor is a 'good mark' for recovery.

Once you receive the report, you have 10 days in which to decide whether to pursue a Full Enforcement Application. If you choose to pursue Full Enforcement, you will maintain your priority above any subsequent applications. The fee of £150.00 already paid, will be deducted from the EJO scale fee. Should you decide not to pursue, you will lose your position.

Unlike the Full Enforcement Application, this application is solely for the purpose of the Means Report to make an informed decision and the EJO will not be able to secure the debt under any Orders unless a Full Enforcement Application has been received.

It is important to note, however, that the EJO cannot guarantee recovery, especially if the debtor has other judgments registered against them in priority to yours, or if they have disposed or indeed dispose of their assets in an attempt to avoid payment.

Please also note, that the use of these powers may take a considerable period of time, and the EJO costs, although recoverable from the debtor if enforcement is successful, can be substantial. Careful consideration must be given to whether an enforcement application is worthwhile.

What is a Warrant of Arrest?

If the debtor fails to comply with the request to attend for interview, the EJO will issue a 'Conditional Order for Issue of Warrant of Arrest'. The EJO will issue this Order to the creditor. This is an Order which must be personally served on the debtor which instructs them to appear at a local court for examination as to his/her means. The order will include requests for the production by the debtor of all books, documents and things in his/her possession relating to his/her means.

Failure to attend this examination will result in a warrant for his/her arrest being issued. If the debt relates to a company, then the director, officer or servant of the company will be summoned.

Service requirements

This Order must be personally served on the debtor and it is the creditor's responsibility to deal with this. A minimum of three attempts must be made before an Application for Substituted Service can be made, and service must take place or be deemed (in the event of substituted service) to have taken place 8 clear working days prior to the scheduled examination date. In addition to service, a viaticum fee (i.e for travel expenses) must be paid and included within the service of the Order to the debtor (see Court fees (Northern Ireland)). Upon service, you must inform the EJO of the exact date and amount of viaticum that was served on the debtor. This must be done prior to the scheduled examination date.

What if I can't serve the order after three attempts?

Retain a note of your service attempts and write to the EJO with details of these. Within your letter request an Order for Substituted Service for the Conditional Order.

The EJO will cancel the scheduled examination date and reissue another. You will be given a fresh Conditional Order for Warrant of Arrest with a fresh date and time for the examination together with an Order for Substituted Service. These documents together with the viaticum can be served on the debtor by first-class post.

Are there fees attached to this Order?

Yes, this order must be personally served on the debtor and may incur an agent's fee for this personal service. You can serve this on the debtor/company debtor yourself to avoid these fees. In addition to this, you must pay the debtor a viaticum 'a fee to cover the debtor's bus fare for this round journey from his place of home to the local court specified within the Order'.

What happens after the examination date?

If the debtor attended on the examination date, the EJO will produce a report as to their means. This is the Means Report.

If the debtor did not attend the examination date and upon clarifying service details, the EJO will issue a Warrant for their Arrest and send this to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for execution. The PSNI upon arrest of the debtor bring him/her to the EJO to be examined on oath. The PSNI have one year to execute this Warrant.