Enforcement of foreign judgments in Northern Ireland and Scotland

Fergal Maguire, Head of Debt Recovery, Cleaver Fulton Rankin and Gillian Buchanan, Head of Commercial Litigation, provide practical insights into the enforcement of English law judgments in their respective practicing jurisdictions, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Enforcement of English Judgments in Northern Ireland

Since the early 1970s, the task of enforcing civil judgments in Northern Ireland has been simplified by the creation of the Enforcement of Judgments Office (“EJO”), which operates under the supervision of the EJO Master, assisted by the Chief Enforcement Officer. There is no bailiff system in Northern Ireland and all judgments are enforced through the EJO, which is a Government body. In 2016, 7,682 notices of intention to enforce a judgment were lodged (a 25% decrease from 2015) and 3,675 applications for enforcement were accepted (a decrease of 45% from 2015). In 2016, the ‘Debt Ratio’ which is the amount of debt recovered for every £1 paid in enforcement fees to the EJO, was £11.42, whereas in 2015 this was £8.15.

As the UK is divided into separate legal jurisdictions, there are separate procedures for registering Judgments in Northern Ireland obtained in other parts of the UK. All Judgments need to be registered before they can be enforced and therefore, Solicitors within Northern Ireland are normally instructed to carry out the registration and enforcement process. The registration of Judgments obtained in other parts of the UK is governed by the Civil Jurisdiction & Judgments Act 1982. Most Judgments registered are in respect of Money Judgments and it is necessary for a Certificate of Money Provisions to be obtained from the Court Office which awarded the original Judgment. This is set out under Schedule 6 to the Civil Jurisdiction & Judgments Act 1982. Once the Certificate of Money Provisions has been signed, stamped and sealed, the original and a certified copy can be lodged in the Central Office of the High Court in Belfast where it is then registered. The registration of the Certificate must take place within 6 months of the issuance of the Certificate.

In order to enforce he Judgment, the certified Certificate of Money Provisions, together with a copy of the Judgment is lodged with the EJO, together with a Notice of Intention to Enforce and the enforcement fee to start the enforcement process.

The EJO have powers to interview the debtor as to their assets and liabilities and also to make various Orders over property and goods owned by the
debtors, together with Orders to extract payment. The EJO also enforce Orders for the repossession of property and Orders for the repossession of goods. It can take up to 4-6 months to enforce a money judgment and as always, debt recovery is neither successful, nor profitable for our clients unless it is handled methodically, with excellent diary management and in the context of clear communication with the EJO.

Enforcement of English, Welsh and Northern Irish Judgments in Scotland

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, trading without borders is something we have come to expect and businesses throughout the UK trade across different legal jurisdictions without difficulty. In the event that a judgment requires to be enforced, the separate legal jurisdictions create more difficulty. Enforcement is often the most important and practically challenging aspect of an instruction. A judgment in England and Wales or Northern Ireland requires to be registered before it can be enforced in Scotland.

How to go about enforcing an English,Welsh or Northern Irish decree in Scotland is not a new question, and the practical answer is found in the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982. This allows UK judgments to be registered for enforcement in other parts of the UK. Judgments to enforce payment of money, or “money provisions” are dealt with in Schedule 6 and are considered in this article.The process is straightforward. Firstly a certificate known as a certificate of money provisions requires to be obtained from the original court which issued the judgment, and thereafter an application for registration requires to be made to the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The certificate of money provisions will state the sum or aggregate sums (including costs or expenses) payable and the interest rate which is running until payment. This certificate can then be registered with the Court of Session within 6 months of the date of issue. Registration generates another certificate with the seal of the Court of Session, and which is treated for enforcement purposes as though a judgment had been issued in proceedings raised in Scotland in the first place. That certificate authorises enforcement against assets in Scotland

A small fee is payable to the issuing court and thereafter to the Court of Session to register the judgment. That fee and the other reasonable costs, such as those costs of your advisers in carrying out the enforcement are recoverable from the debtor in addition to the principal sum. After registration has been effected, careful consideration should be given to the methods of enforcement available to you in light of the circumstances of the debtor such as they are known, considering: service of a charge for payment; arrestment of the debtor’s bank account; attachment of moveable goods; inhibiting heritable property or insolvency proceedings. The costs of the various forms of enforcement open to the creditor are variable, and not all costs are recoverable, the effectiveness of each route therefore requires to be considered carefully.The registration process provided for in the Act is a simple process to allow enforcement of English, Welsh and Northern Irish judgments in Scotland. Obtaining payment however isn’t always as straightforward!

Gillian Buchanan
Head of Commercial Litigation
Thorntons Law LLP
Email: gbuchanan@thorntons-law.co.uk
Dial: 01382 229 111