The High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) has today published the report from their extensive survey of 430 court users in April and May 2021 with regards to the enforcement of non-regulated debts below £600, which currently can only be enforced by a County Court bailiff (CCB).

Here at The Sheriffs Office, we have long been championing the cause to change the 1991 Jurisdiction Order to allow court users freedom of choice when it comes to enforcement.

Our sister company ran a survey in 2016 which showed very strong support for a change to allow court users to use a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO) to enforce a non-regulated judgment below £600.

Results of the HCEOA survey

This strong support has grown since then and the findings of the HCEOA survey of court users provide a compelling case for a change in regulations.

You can download the Supporting Court Users – A Right to Freedom of Choice’report from the HCEOA website.

  • Almost 99% of court users support freedom of choice – to choose whether they want to use a CCB or HCEO to enforce their judgments
  • An overwhelming amount, 96%, of court users would like a change in regulations - to give them the option of using an HCEO to recover debts under £600 instead of a CCB
  • 97% of court users are concerned about the backlog of cases in the County Court, with 86% experiencing delays, many of whom have stopped trying to recover some debts altogether
  • Just 5% of court users think the current system is effective and meets their needs
  • 35% of court users would issue more claims for under £600 if they were able to choose an HCEO to enforce their judgments and recover their debts

What respondents said

Looking at the 480 plus comments provided by respondents, a sample below represent the consensus amongst court users. They show that the County Court process, whilst worsened by the pandemic, was already broken.

County court bailiffs refusing to enforce under £600 money judgements citing lack of manpower

We rarely issue warrants for judgments under £600 due to the delays from the County Court Bailiffs and their effectiveness in collecting the warrants. We do have a need for judgements under £600 to be enforced but have no confidence in the County Court Bailiffs

Very slow delays at present when using CC Bailiffs, whereas High Court Enforcement seems to have retained its speed

Bailiffs not making visits for months. Poor performance of warrant of control support centres. Significant impact on recoveries

The CC bailiffs are so ineffective and so expensive that if a debt is under £600 then we do not even recommend to our clients that we use a warrant of execution. This is clearly not acceptable but it is uneconomically viable to pursue and is not effective anyway

Bailiffs are not paid on results and I feel are a little indifferent to whether they collect or not. There has also been cutbacks over the years meaning bailiffs cover a larger area than before and with more warrants to execute

CC bailiffs are notoriously inefficient and do not deliver results. Backlogs were phenomenal BEFORE lockdown, I dread to think what things are like now

HCEO have proven to be more efficient, easy to deal with and more effective, particularly in gaining early engagement which is to everyone's benefit

If it were possible to transfer debts below £600 to HCEO we would be in a position to collect more debts

What needs to be done to make a change

Government could solve this problem today. A small change to the High Court and County Court Jurisdiction Order 1991 would allow High Court Enforcement Officers to enforce judgments and help creditors recover debts of under £600. This would give court users freedom to choose another option.

Changes to the current regulations would alleviate delays to the court system, giving the County Court Bailiffs the time needed to work through the backlog of cases from outstanding judgments, and take on new cases from creditors who do not want to transfer up lower amounts of debt.

Full support from the Civil Court Users Association

A Civil Justice system is only effective if its judgments can be enforced. Over many years, County Court Bailiff enforcement has been poor. The recent establishment of Warrant of Control support centres was not requested by court users, delays enforcement, is a further deterioration, and effectively signals a complete lack of appetite to provide the enforcement service which has been requested and paid for. In that context, if effective and efficient enforcement is to be possible, it is clear that it must be opened up to the private sector. With that in mind, the CCUA fully supports the proposals made by the HCEOA. Continued ineffective and inefficient enforcement would be contrary to the interests of court users and risks damaging the credibility of the court service.

Robert Thompson, Chair of the CCUA

How you can help

The HCEOA is asking for support to give court users a right to freedom of choice. You can do this by writing to the Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland MP, at, copying in

Download the report

You can download the Supporting Court Users – A Right to Freedom of Choice’report from the HCEOA website.

David Asker

David is an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer and our Director of Corporate Governance