When making an arrest, the police may well have seized assets and held on to them, if they believe they may be needed as evidence.

If a judgment debtor is arrested, or has already been sent to prison, the creditor is still permitted to obtain a writ of control (formerly called a writ of fieri facias or fi-fa) and have it enforced by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO).

However, before gong down this route, you may want to double check that there is no Confiscation Order or Forfeiture Order made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) in place, which would prevent the HCEO from enforcing. These are relating to a criminal case and not a civil case, they may have been taken out to prevent the defendant profiting from their crime. There is further information on POCA on the West Yorkshire Police website.

Assets held as evidence

If the judgment debtor’s assets are being held by the police, then the HCEO will need to obtain permission from the police. Permission is normally given as long as the assets are not needed as evidence.

If they are though, for example in a fraud or counterfeiting case, the HCEO should try to come to an arrangement with the police where the police take a full and detailed inventory, perhaps photographs, and retain samples, thus enabling them to release the remainder to the HCEO to sell at auction to raise money to pay the creditor the judgment sum.

Judgment debtor in prison

If the debtor is already in prison and the HCEO is enforcing a writ at their normal residence, the HCEO must make reasonable requests to ensure that the assets being seized do belong to the debtor and not a third party, for example a spouse or parents living at that address. If a third party claims ownership when the HCEO asks them, they need to provide evidence. If they are unable to do so, then the HCEO will decide whether or not to seize the goods, based on his belief about who actually owns them.

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