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Is the system for CCJs being abused – or just used?

A Daily Mail article recently revealed that nearly 740,000 county court judgments in the financial year 2014/15 were undefended or not heard in court. Amid an apparent government probe, Marcel Le Gouais asks if other elements, not least the courts system, need just as much attention

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There were a few intakes of breath last month when a Daily Mail front page carried the headline: Lives ruined for a sake of a penny.

 

It was the result of an investigation into the total number of county court judgments (CCJs) issued by various creditors to individuals during the past 20 years.

 

Using information secured via a Freedom of Information request, the article detailed a large rise in debt judgements against families who were unaware about them, claiming that in one case a debtor had been sued for just a penny.

 

Most of the newspaper’s vitriol was aimed squarely at ParkingEye, which collects parking fines, but it added that customers of HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, NatWest, Vodafone, O2, Npower and United Utilities had all been issued with CCJs.

 

The article’s main points can be summarised thus:

  1. Around 85 percent (736,000) of nearly 866,000 CCJs were issued by default against individuals in the financial year 2014/15. Most of these, if not all, had bene issued at the County Court Business Centre.
  2. Many individuals were unaware that they were the subject of any judgment because correspondence was sent to outdated addresses. In some cases, families discovered they had a judgment against them years after the event.
  3. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is now probing in the use of county court judgments, following a response from the Prime Minister’s office to the Daily Mail’s calls for an investigation.

When this was put to the MOJ, a statement was received from courts minister Sir Oliver Heald, who said: “These are serious claims which will be looked at urgently. Our legal system is world-leading and we are determined to ensure that it is not open to abuse.

 

"We are already modernising the system by spending more than £700 million to reform and digitise our courts to deliver swifter justice. Anyone deliberately providing false information to the courts faces prosecution.”

 

Peter Wallwork, chief executive of the Credit Services Association (CSA), said: “The CSA is unaware of any incidents – and wholly rejects the accusation that a creditor would use litigation to deliberately ‘wreck the finances of consumers’ by intentionally having a judgment passed without their knowledge.”

 

See Credit Strategy’s November issue for the full article on p13.

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