An order for information is an option available to the creditor once he has been awarded his judgment. It can be a useful method of finding out more about the judgment debtor before deciding what course of enforcement action to follow.
What happens is that the judgment debtor is ordered to come to the court to be questioned, on oath, by a court officer about their:
- Employment status, details of employer and wages or salary
- Dependants and outgoings paid from income
- Any additional income
- Any property owned (house, car, caravan, etc.), which may have a saleable value
- Any bank or building society accounts and the balances in them
- Any other relevant questions you want answered
If the judgment debtor is an individual, you will need to complete Form N316; for a company it is form N316A. With a company you can ask that one of the officers of the company be questioned (you can get their details from Companies House). The application must be made in the court where the judgment debtor or officer resides or carries on business.
You will need to know:
- The name and address of the judgment debtor (in the case of a company, you will also need to know the official role, e.g. Director, and address of the person you want to question)
- Details of the judgment you have against the judgment debtor
- Any particular questions you want put to the judgment debtor
- Any particular documents you want the judgment debtor to bring to court
As the judgment creditor, you must also decide whether you wish the questioning to be heard before a judge and state your reasons for this on the application. If you do not request this at the time of your application, questioning will be carried out by a court officer.
There is a fee for the order which may be added to the amount owing and recovered from the debtor, should enforcement be successful.
Serving the order
The court will draw up an order in Form N39 (Order to attend for questioning), using the information you have given in your application. You must then either personally serve the order on the judgment debtor or get a process server to do this on your behalf, at least 14 days before the date of the questioning. Whoever serves the order must swear an affidavit that the papers have been served.
You must also swear an affidavit saying whether or not the judgment debtor (or officer) has asked for travelling expenses (which they must do within 7 days of the order being served), and if so, how much money you gave them.
The order also contains a warning to the judgment debtor or officer that failure to do what the order says may result in imprisonment.
If you receive payment in full before the questioning takes place, you must let the court where the questioning is taking place know immediately.
This will take place in the court local to the judgment debtor. Any documents you need to file relating to the questioning must be filed at that court.
The debtor will be asked to swear an oath and then questioning will begin. All the relevant standard questions, plus any you have specified will be asked by the court officer. You may attend if you wish, but it isn’t necessary. After the questioning, you will be sent a copy of the Record of Examination.
If the debtor either refuses to take the oath or answer questions, or doesn’t attend the questioning, the Circuit Judge will order the issue of a suspended committal order, which, again must be correctly served in the same way as the original order.
If the judgment debtor fails to attend on the new date given in the suspended committal order, then a warrant of arrest will be issued and passed to a county court bailiff. Once arrested, the defendant will go before a judge. If he answers the questions then, the judge will normally discharge the suspended committal order.
If the defendant still won’t comply, then he will normally be sent to prison for the time specified in the suspended committal order.