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To What Extent Can a Fraudster Re-register?

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 13 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
Judgment Debtor Debt Enforcement Bailiff


The old chestnut of a warrant of execution against a fraudster who when the County Court Bailif visits, claims that everything on the premises belongs to his wife, when he has created this device to avoid honouring the debt.

What is the real position please even if he has gone to the extent of re-registering everything in her name?

(Mr Christopher Carnley, 11 January 2009)


Once a County Court judgment has been obtained against an individual there are several different methods of enforcement that the person who won the judgment may use to recover the debt. The main methods of enforcement are:

  • Warrant of execution – the court bailiff will attempt to recover the money owed. If unsuccessful, he will attempt to seize goods from the debtor which can then be sold to cover the debt. The bailiff can only seize goods which are owned solely by the debtor, or jointly by him and someone else. Some categories of goods, such as tools of trade and essential household items, cannot be seized.
  • Attachment of earnings order – if the debtor is employed a regular amount may be deducted at source from the debtor’s wages or salary.
  • Charging Order – if the debtor is the registered proprietor of land, an application may be made to place a charge over the property for the value of the debt. The debtor will not be able to sell the property without satisfying the debt.
  • Third party debt order – this may be made in respect of a bank account in the debtor’s name or against a third party who owes the debtor money. The effect is to freeze the money so that the judgment creditor can recover the debt owed to him.
In most cases the judgment creditor will have to pay a fee when they apply for enforcement. Whilst this fee will be added to the debt already owed, it will not be refunded if the method of enforcement proves to be unsuccessful. People on low incomes or benefits may be exempt from paying the fee for execution.

In cases where a judgment debtor owes £750 or more, a judgment creditor may issue bankruptcy proceedings. However, this is a much more expensive and protracted way of recovering a debt.

Obtaining a County Court judgment against an individual is no guarantee that the money owed will ever be repaid. Therefore, before applying for any method of enforcement, serious consideration should be given to the likelihood that it will be successful. It seems, in this case, that you have applied for a warrant of execution but that the bailiff concluded that the debtor owns no property worth seizing. If he truly owns nothing of value this method will not work and the bailiff could not seize goods owned solely by the debtor’s wife – unless she too was liable under the judgment.

In cases where a judgment creditor does not have enough information about the debtor to decide how best to enforce the debt they may apply to the court for an order to obtain information. The debtor will then be required to come to court and provide information, on oath, about their circumstances – including any income and assets, property owned, employment, savings etc. If the debtor fails to attend he could be sent to prison. Again, a fee will be payable to apply for such an order.

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JayKay - Your Question:
My ex husband is taking me to The small Claims court to recover gifts that he bought me or the cash equivalent.Can he do this?We had no written or verbal agreement that gifts would be returned if the relationship ended.

Our Response:
The only way your ex husband can claim the money back through the small claims court is to prove the 'gifts' were not gifts, but a loan. In order to succeed, he would have to be able to prove there was an agreement in place that you would pay him back.
AboutSmallClaims - 14-Jul-17 @ 11:06 AM
My ex husband is taking me to The small Claims court to recover gifts that he bought me or the cash equivalent. Can he do this? We had no written or verbal agreement that gifts would be returned if the relationship ended.
JayKay - 13-Jul-17 @ 3:02 PM
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