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Enforcement | Is it “Duress” or “Necessary”?

Claire Sandbrook, Shergroup’s CEO writes:

In recent days I have reviewed two cases involving taking a vehicle into legal control under a High Court Writ. In both cases the value of the judgment was around £6000 and in both cases the debt was paid as a result of the Writ being issued. And in both cases the Judgment Debtor claimed some form of “duress” when it came to the action taken to compel payment.


“Duress” is a very strong word – which has connotations of force, arms twisted up the back, or manipulation – and so as a gentler reminder on the use of that word I have posted an accurate definition, taken from the English Oxford dictionary. But here’s the thing – enforcement is not about duress – it is about the lawful exercise of a power which comes from the Court itself. A Writ of Control or a Writ of Possession is the Court saying, we have made our decision and now its necessary to comply. Every time the Court makes its Order it is doing so after a process – sometimes short, sometimes long, but always following a clear set of Rules.


We as citizens may feel that the Court is harsh in its decision making, but the fact is we are all living and working under the same set of Rules. Without enforcement, the rule of law stops, and cannot be carried forward into a proper remedy. Who want’s that? The legal system needs a flourishing and innovative enforcement environment to be able to ensure citizens who go to law can see their remedy come to pass. And citizens who are the subject of the Court’s Order need to be assured the Order will be enforced in a fair, albeit firm manner.


I know enforcement is not popular, but it is necessary. Those of us who have a part to play in its delivery as a service must do so with a firm but fair hand. We are after all citizens ourselves. But here’s the point – a Writ or Warrant is not a form of duress – it is a lawful process. In both the cases I reviewed, there was a failure by the Judgment Debtor to take notice that the law was coming down the tracks. No action was taken on the Enforcement Notice, one of which was served by email. That was the time, and indeed it was designed to be so, as a window to take advice, or pay before the enforcement agents knocked on the door.


So, if you are on the receiving end of a judgment, my advice to you is to TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY. Don’t ignore the paperwork, don’t delay. You can start to sort what you are going to do. The cases that prompted me to write this blog post had enforcement fees added of £1000. Procrastination costs money. And you may ask why I am writing this blog post? Well in both cases the people concerned had better things to do with their funds. Both cases were ones where the only way out was to claim “duress”, which we then have to review and where necessary defend our action. All this does is to add cost and stress to an already difficult situation.”


Take our 3 simple steps if you find yourself on the wrong end of a judgment:

  1. Engage with the process as soon as you receive a Notice of Enforcement – don’t delay and get advice based on what the Notice says

  2. Be ready to prove what you own – keep receipts and bank statements showing how you paid for your car and other valuable or important possessions

  3. Agree to sign a Controlled Goods Agreement, and give yourself breathing space to organize your finances

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Last updated | 19 July 2023

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