High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEO) / Sheriffs

High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) (often known as Sheriffs) are authorised by the Government and must have Associate Membership status of the High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) to perform their duties. HCEOs abide by the National Standards for Enforcement Agents.

High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) are responsible for the enforcement of the Writs of Execution issued out of the High Court.

High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) are authorised to remove and sell a person's possessions in order to pay money owed to a person or organisation. In some cases they may also have authority to conduct evictions and arrest people.

They are authorised to execute High Court writs under the provisions contained in Section 99 and Schedule 7 of the Courts Act 2003.

HCEOs have differing roles, depending on the person or organisation on whose behalf they are working. Leaflet EX345 About Bailiffs, Enforcement Officers and Enforcement Agents has detailed information on their responsibilities, how they work, and how to make a complaint about them.

For more information visit the High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) website www.hceoa.org.uk

High Court Writs

  • Writ of Control – recovery of money owed and provision for the seizure of the judgment debtor's goods
  • Writ of Possession - recovery of land after an Order for Possession as been obtained
  • Writ of Assistance – assists in the enforcement of a Writ of Possession
  • Writ of Restitution – issued following the re-occupation of land after the execution of a Writ of Possession
  • Writ of Control and Possession – recovery of land and money
  • Writ of Delivery – recovery of specific assets

Fast judgment enforcement

A judgment claimant does not need to seek the Court's permission to issue the Writ unless there is a stipulation attached to the judgment or order and there is no need to give notice to the judgment debtor that a Writ of Fi Fa has been issued. Judgments without any stipulations can be enforced immediately using a Writ of Control.

Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 40.7(1) expressly states that a Judgment or Order takes effect from the day when it is given or made, or any later date which the court specifies.

When immediate High Court enforcement cannot be started

Where a Judgment or Order contains directions allowing payment within a specified time - the Writ cannot be issued until the time specified has elapsed.

Where the Judgment or Order contains directions regarding service on the judgment debtor - the Writ cannot be issued until the Judgment or Order has been served and proof of service has been lodged with the Court.

Where the Judgment or Order is conditional, the Writ can only be issued once the judgment debtor has failed to comply with the conditions.

The rights of entry for a HCEO

Rights of entry vary depending on whether the property is residential or commercial.

Residential property can be entered via any open/ unlocked doors or windows or by climbing perimeter walls and fences. The HCEO may break down interior doors where necessary. If he is forced from the property then he can force re-entry. He can force entry into garages or other outbuildings that are not attached to the main residence.

The HCEO has further rights over commercial property. He can force entry on a first visit to levy on (take control of) goods and on subsequent visits to remove the goods. Where the property is rented he needs to contact the landlord before forcing entry.

Further he may visit the home of a company director if he believes goods belonging to the company (eg a car) may be found there. He may also enter the premises of a third party (with prior consent) if he believes goods belonging to the debtor are to be found there.

If consent is refused and the HCEO believes the goods have been taken there to avoid execution, he may force entry.

There is a long list of items that may be controlled by the HCEO, including vehicles, stock and machinery to jewellery, firearms and livestock.

Controlled Goods Agreement

If a HCEO has taken control of goods, they legally no longer belong to the judgment debtor. If a HCEO leaves things with the judgment debtor under a Controlled Goods Agreement, the judgment debtor may carry on using them. But they must not:

  • cause any damage to the goods
  • take them away
  • sell them

If they do, this is against the law and they can be taken to court for disobeying a court order. This is called contempt of court.

The law on contempt is partly set out in case law, and partly specified in the Contempt of Court Act 1981. A judge may impose sanctions such as a fine or jail for someone found guilty of contempt of court.

A judge may imprison the offender for a maximum of one month, fine them up to £2,500, or do both.

Transfer of a County Court Judgment (CCJ) to the High Court for enforcement

If you have a County Court Judgment (CCJ) for £600.00 (including costs) or over you can transfer it to the High Court for enforcement by a High Court Enforcement Officer.

Register CCJ