Under-funded, under-staffed and under-motivated

Lord Justice Briggs published his Civil Courts Justice Review in July, but was unable to reach any firm recommendations when it comes to enforcement and believes there should be a “detailed bespoke review”. He considers whether there should be a single court for enforcement and also the unification or harmonisation of enforcement processes and acknowledges that judgment creditors participating in the consultation were definitely in favour of High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO) supported by enforcement agents (EA) for physical enforcement because: “… they are both much speedier and more effective modes of enforcement, compared with the under-funded, under-staffed and under-motivated County Court bailiffs.” (10.29) Judgment debtors, on the other hand, prefer the County Court bailiffs, where enforcement fees recoverable from debtors are lower. LJ Briggs believes that the answer for physical enforcement is not the county court bailiff route whilst the problems that they are beset by still remain, not does he think that an increase in resources would necessarily deal with all their issues: “… if progress is made towards either the unification or harmonisation of enforcement processes, it would be wholly unsatisfactory to provide only for physical enforcement by state-employed bailiffs on the County Court model, for as long as their service continues to be, as is unchallenged, gravely afflicted in its quality by delays and under-performance.” (10.32) In the same point, he continues “Nonetheless there is at least a real risk that an increase in resources for the County Court bailiff service sufficient to eradicate the current delays would not necessarily deal with all its alleged defects, by comparison with the more incentivised private service offered by HCEOs and EAs.” LJ Briggs concludes that the enforcement debate is wide-ranging and well beyond his terms of reference, and recommends that there be “a detailed bespoke review, as soon as resources for that purpose permit.” So any developments will therefore depend on what appetite there is in Ministry of Justice to undertake such a review.

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