The UK’s enforcement bodies and Just have issued a joint statement on a high court judgment on virtual enforcement – and invited the Ministry of Justice to review current regulations.
The Civil Enforcement Association, the High Court Enforcement Officers Association and Just issued the statement on a court decision issued this morning (8 January) by Victoria McCloud, a master of the senior courts, Queens Bench Division.
In the case, master McCloud reviewed whether current regulations allow for controlled goods agreements to be secured when enforcement agents haven’t entered premises to enforce a debt.
She stated in her decision that provisions in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 do not prohibit what she described as a “non-entry CGA” (controlled goods agreement).
Following the decision, CIVEA, the HCEOA and Just all invited the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to review the judgment and, if appropriate, provide further guidance and/or amendments to the regulations.
The joint statement stated that The Taking Control of Goods Regulations, which came into force in 2014, set out the statutory code for any enforcement agent to take control of goods via a CGA, to avoid those goods being removed and sold whilst payments are made under the terms of the CGA.
The regulations currently state that a visit needs to take place before goods can be taken into control, but do not specify whether this has to be a physical visit.
The joint statement added that the judgment gives clarity on this matter saying ‘an enforcement agent may enter into a controlled goods agreement within the meaning of Schedule 12 to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 with a debtor whether or not the enforcement agent has physically entered the premises on which the goods are located.’
The parties also stated that CIVEA and HCEOA members already use multi-channel engagement tools as part of the compliance stage without applying additional fees.
Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of CIVEA, Andrew Wilson, chairman of the HCEOA, and Nick Georgiades, managing director of Just, said: “We’re pleased the courts have reached this judgment on non-entry controlled goods agreements.
“This is good news for creditors, debtors, members of both associations and Just as it was important to bring much needed clarity in this area of enforcement. The judgment was the appropriate procedure to follow before any new and untested practices are introduced for the enforcement of court orders and warrants.”
The three parties added: “We invite the MoJ to review the judgment, and, if appropriate, provide statutory guidance on the processes to be followed if re-entry is required and any fees which might be applied.
"While we recognise that members of the associations and Just will be well placed to conduct non-entry CGA’s with appropriate caution, we would like to safeguard the process from others who may not be so diligent. The two associations and Just have offered to assist the MoJ in completing this work, should it be appropriate.”
Court Enforcement Services has also issued a response to the decision.