Want to complain?
As a professional Association we are sorry that you feel that you have need to complain about one of our members in the handling of the enforcement of a High Court Writ. This may of course be for a number of reasons and before making a complaint to the Association, we would ask that you carefully look at our procedures below before proceeding.
We are only able to deal with complaints against our members so, it would be useful if you confirmed that the enforcement action to which your complaint relates was in relation to a High Court Writ of Execution, as we are unable to deal with complaints made in relation to other types of enforcement, for example Warrant of Execution, Liability Orders or Distress Warrants, of which the other professional organisation would deal with, namely Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) www.civea.co.uk, based at 513, Bradford Road, Batley, West Yorkshire WF17 8LL. Tel: 0844 893 3922 and Fax: 0844 854 6322
Before raising a complaint with us, you should firstly, make your complaint to the officer in writing, and give them the opportunity to resolve the matter through their own complaints process, and only if you remain unsatisfied at the end of this process should you then make a complaint to the Association. If this causes you difficulty or concern, then please feel free to contact our Complaint's Officer, Karl Andrews at your convenience, so that assistance may be provided.
This structure as explained above is intended to be flexible and it is open to you to forward your complaint at any time, but it will assist matters if the High Court Enforcement Officer, to whom the complaint relates, has concluded his/her own complaints procedure first.
In any event, a complaint against a High Court Enforcement Officer should be addressed to the High Court Enforcement Officers' Association directly by contacting us at our offices. At this stage we request that you read carefully and follow the steps below under “Making a Complaint”.
If you have any difficulty understanding or following any of these steps, or with any of our procedures, then please do contact us either by email, post or telephone for further explanation and clarification. It of course remains open for you to seek independent advice from a service provider, such as (but not limited to) the Citizens Advice Bureau or Community Legal Services Board at any time.
Your complaint to the Association should be in writing and addressed to the Chairman whose address is as below, however in the event you are unable to make a written complaint (for example if you have a disability), you may phone our Chairman on 08448 244575 and they will make a written record of your complaint.
High Court Enforcement Officers Association
Making a Complaint
You can make a complaint if you are affected by the High Court Enforcement Officers' behaviour, or if you have experienced or witnessed the High Court Enforcement Officer behaviour. We will consider complaints from:
- judgment creditors (people who are owed money under a court decision);
- judgment debtors (people who owe money under a court decision);
- innocent people affected by the High Court Enforcement Officers' behaviour; and
- an High Court Enforcement Officer about another High Court Enforcement Officer.
You may also make a complaint against a High Court Enforcement Officer – for example, to consider matters relating to breaking common-law responsibilities, breaking our code of conduct, and any other disciplinary matters, such as people not carrying out checks from the Criminal Records Bureau.
2 You should first make your complaint to the relevant High Court Enforcement Officer. Most High Court Enforcement Officers' are employed by a company providing enforcement services. You can get details of the company address for all High Court Enforcement Officers' from our Secretary (please see point 6).
3 You should only make a complaint to us if the case involves a self-employed High Court Enforcement Officers. You can get details of the High Court Enforcement Officers' who are self-employed or members of a trading organisation from our Secretary.
4 Once you have gone through the complaint's procedure with the Company, if you are still not happy with the result and feel that you have a good reason to take the matter further, you may ask us to deal with the complaint.
5 You must make any complaints to us in writing, and send them to our chief executive at the address below.
6 You can contact our Chairman by writing to:
High Court Enforcement Officers Association
If you are not able to make a written complaint to our Chairman (for example, if you have a disability), you may phone our Chairman on 08448 244575 and they will make a written record of your complaint.
7 Any complaints you make to us must:
- Say what type of complaint you are making; and
- Must include a copy of the High Court Enforcement Officers written response to your complaint (if this applies).
8 You should also mention in the complaint any laws, common-law responsibilities, rules or code of conduct which you think the High Court Enforcement Officers is breaking.
9 Our Chairman will acknowledge that they have received your written complaint within seven working days, and pass it to our complaints officer to deal with. A working day means Monday to Friday (not including any bank holidays in England & Wales), when banks in London are open for business. Our Complaint's Officer is Michael Jackson.
If you are making a complaint about our complaints officer or a member of his trading organisation, we will choose a qualified and independent deputy from the Association Board to handle the complaint.
Assessing your complaint
10 The complaints officer will, within 21 days of receiving your complaint, assess whether we are able to deal with the complaint and tell you whether or not we will investigate it. If we are not able to deal with your complaint, we will send you a copy of our decision explaining why.
11 As part of this complaint assessment, the complaints officer may ask for information from, a meeting with, or a phone conference with you or the High Court Enforcement Officer involved.
12 The Complaints Officer will collect all the information available about the complaint, and decide whether you have a good reason to make the complaint. They may decide that the complaint:
- does not have any reason to go ahead; or
- falls within a category which our complaints procedure does not include. We will not go ahead with any of the following.
a Disagreements about an amount claimed on the writ (a formal written order made by an organisation with powers to make a legal judgment – usually a court). You take this complaint to the judgment creditor or the court involved.
b Disagreements about the fees we charge. We already have legal process for dealing with disagreements about fees, and you must take the matter to a court in a ‘detailed-assessment hearing’. As this is a technical application, you should get independent advice from a solicitor, Citizens Advice or the Community Legal Services Board, to make sure you make the application in the correct format.
c Complaints about whether a writ is legal. You should take this matter to the court involved.
d Disagreements about the law, rather than the behaviour of an High Court Enforcement Officer. You should take this matter to court.
e Cases where legal action against the High Court Enforcement Officer has already been made or started, or where the case would be more appropriately dealt with through legal action. We will not get involved in these types of cases until the court case is over.
f Cases falling within paragraph 4 of part 2 of the High Court Enforcement Officers Regulations 2004, or a matter that is within regulation 2.12 of the Association's Articles of Association. If this is the case, we will refer the matter to the Lord Chancellor and the conditions about ending cases (in points 33 and 34 below) will apply in place of the other procedures set out below.
The Lord Chancellor will include a person acting on their behalf, under schedule 7 of the Courts Act 2003.
13 If the Complaints Officer rejects your complaint under one of the headings above (except clause 3f) and you disagree with their decision, you may take your complaint to our Complaints Board. The Complaints Board will be made up of a legally qualified independent advisor and two members of our Board of Directors (but not the complaints officer or anyone else who has already been involved in looking at the complaint).
If the Complaints Officer decides to investigate your complaint, they will pass your case to the Complaints Board. Our chief executive acts as clerk for the Complaints Board and the Appeals Board.
Investigating a complaint
14 Once we have confirmed that we will investigate your complaint, the Complaints Board will send us a statement of your complaint, and we will ask the High Court Enforcement Officer concerned to give us a response. The High Court Enforcement Officer must give us their response within 21 working days. We will only give them an extension if it is reasonable to do so, for example if the person dealing with the complaint is on holiday. The High Court Enforcement Officer must, as early as possible, ask for an extension in writing and give reasons why they want an extension. The Complaints Board will tell you and the High Court Enforcement Officer about any extension. When we receive the response from the High Court Enforcement Officer, we will copy it and send it to you.
15 When we have received the High Court Enforcement Officers response to your complaint, we will start our investigation. We may need more information and supporting evidence from you and the High Court Enforcement Officer. We may ask to have an interview with you or the High Court Enforcement Officer. If we ask for an interview, you and the High Court Enforcement Officer may bring one other person to the interview with you. You must give us this person’s name and the role they will have in the interview, at least five working days before the interview takes place.
16 After the High Court Enforcement Officer has given us their response, we will only allow you or the High Court Enforcement Officer to make further written statements, if we think this is needed to make a fair decision on the case.
17 We will not usually accept new information at this stage. We will only consider new information if it:
a is relevant to the complaint;
b will improve our understanding of the complaint; or
c could not reasonably have been produced earlier.
It is our decision whether or not we accept new information. If you or the High Court Enforcement Officer give us new information, we will send you or the High Court Enforcement Officer a copy of it, and you will be able to comment on it.
18 You will see all relevant information the High Court Enforcement Officer gives us, and any other information we will consider when we make our decision or recommendation.
19 During the investigation, the Complaints Board will be able to use any relevant laws (as amended or replaced from time to time), rules, codes of conduct and common law, including:
a the Courts Act 2003;
b the High Court Enforcement Officers Regulations 2004;
c our Code of Conduct; and
d Civil Procedure Rules.
20 The Complaint's Board will assess how long the investigation will take to complete and tell you and the High Court Enforcement Officer concerned. This assessment will take into account how complicated the case is.
21 If it becomes clear that the Complaint's Board will not be able to complete the investigation within the time they first told you about, they will tell you the new timescale.
22 We may work with other organisations and specialists if we think this is appropriate. We will tell you and the High Court Enforcement Officer before we do this.
23 In some circumstances the Complaints Board may decide to hold a hearing, if they think it will improve their understanding of the complaint. For example, it may be useful to have a hearing if some information is not clear. You and the High Court Enforcement Officer will be invited to the hearing to explain any of your information that is not clear. The Complaints Board will normally give you 21 working days’ notice of the hearing, which will take place somewhere that is convenient for you.
24 Hearings will be held in private. Our representative will make notes, but the hearings will not normally be recorded. You and the High Court Enforcement Officer may bring up to three other people to the hearing with you. You must have given us their names and the roles they will have at the hearing, at least five working days before the hearing takes place.
25 The procedure at the hearing will be led by the chair, but will normally be as follows.
a The chair explains what will happen.
b You have a chance to briefly explain your case.
c The High Court Enforcement Officer has a chance to briefly explain their case.
d The Complaint's Board may ask you and the High Court Enforcement Officer questions.
e The High Court Enforcement Officer has a chance to make a brief final statement.
f You have a chance to make a brief final statement.
26 We will not usually accept new information at the hearing. The Complaint's Board will only consider new information if they think it:
a is relevant to the complaint;
b will help their understanding of the complaint; or
c could not reasonably have been produced earlier.
It is up to the chair to decide whether or not to accept new information. If you or the High Court Enforcement Officer give the chair new information, you or the High Court Enforcement Officer will receive a copy of it and be able to comment on it.
Withdrawing a complaint
27 You may withdraw the complaint at any time by sending us written notice.
Our decision and recommendation
28 The Complaint's Board will consider the complaint and make a decision. They may decide to:
a reject the complaint;
b accept the complaint;
c give instructions about their behaviour, which the High Court Enforcement Officer must follow in the future;
d give general instructions about behaviour to the Company the High Court Enforcement Officer works for;
e punish the High Court Enforcement Officer in some way;
f make the High Court Enforcement Officer pay up to £15,000 in penalties; or
g recommend to us that we take away the membership of the High Court Enforcement Officer and take the case (and report from the Complaint's Board) to the Lord Chancellor. The board will make recommendations about whether the High Court Enforcement Officer should continue to be one of our members, or whether they should be an authorised High Court Enforcement Officer.
29 The Complaint's Board will prepare a report, which will include information on:
a what the complaint was about;
b the issues you and the High Court Enforcement Officer put forward;
c which laws, rules, codes of conduct or common law have not been kept to, and the board’s reasons for what they have found; and
d the board’s decision or recommendations.
30 The Complaint's Officer will send you a copy of the Complaint's Board’s report within 21 working days of the Board making their decision. You can check the report to make sure the information is correct, and you have 10 working days to respond. If you do not respond within 10 working days, we will assume that you agree the information in the report is correct. The Complaint's Board will consider amending the report if they think this is necessary. It is up to the Complaint's Board to make the final decision about any amendments. They will send you the final version of the report.
31 If the Complaint's Board have made recommendations, they may set deadlines for these recommendations to be introduced, and may monitor whether or not the recommendations are being put into practice.
32 This complaints procedure now divides into two cases.
a Cases where the Complaint's Board make a recommendation to the Lord Chancellor for permission to end our relationship with the High Court Enforcement Officer.
b Cases where we decide to deal with the case using our own complaints procedure.
33 Cases where we end our relationship with the High Court Enforcement Officer
a We pass the complaint directly to the Lord Chancellor in line with Regulation 12 of HCEO Regulations 2004, and give them a copy of the Complaint's Board’s decision (see points 28 and 29).
b The Lord Chancellor will follow the Ministry of Justices’ complaints procedure in line with regulation 12(3) of HCEO Regulations 2004.
c The Lord Chancellor will give us their decision and confirm whether or not we should end the High Court Enforcement Officer’s membership.
34 If the Complaint's Board recommend that we end the High Court Enforcement Officer’s membership, they will first pass the case to the Lord Chancellor. They will do this because ending the High Court Enforcement Officer’s membership will mean that the High Court Enforcement Officer no longer meets the requirements set out in paragraph 5 of the High Court Enforcement Officers Regulations, and will involve a decision which is based on the conditions set out in the High Court Enforcement Officers Regulations 2004, paragraph 12. Under this regulation, the Lord Chancellor may at any time end the High Court Enforcement Officer’s ability to work if:
a it would be in the public’s interest to do so;
b any of the information or documents provided in the application under regulation 5 are not complete or not true;
c the High Court Enforcement Officer, or any person acting on their behalf who helps with their work, has behaved in a way which the Lord Chancellor thinks is unprofessional or unacceptable; or
d the High Court Enforcement Officer has not met one or more of the conditions of regulation 8 of the High Court Enforcement Officers Regulations 2004. These conditions include:
- continuing with their responsibilities to make sure they carry out all the training they need;
- keeping to any requirements set by the Lord Chancellor for them to continue to develop professionally;
- having relevant current insurance policies;
- having a bank account which judgment debtors can collect money from and pay money into; and
- giving the Lord Chancellor yearly audited or certified accounts, performance statistics and other information or documents relevant to their work, when asked for it.
35 Cases where we decide to use our own complaints procedure
a You and the High Court Enforcement Officer have 14 days, from the date of the letter from the complaints officer (which includes the report about the Complaints Board’s decision), to tell the complaints officer in writing if you want to appeal against the decision to the Appeals Board. You must make any requests to extend the time you have to appeal, in line with paragraph 15 above. The Appeals Board will be made up of the president, a legally qualified independent advisor, and one member of our Board of Directors (but not the Complaints Officer or anyone else who has been involved in the complaint process so far).
b If you want to appeal against any decision the Complaints Board have made, you must put forward a case where you can argue that there is a problem with the decision – for example, if:
- there is a mistake in the information used to make the decision;
- the decision is unlawful (that is, the Complaints Board has acted outside its powers or applied the law wrongly, including the Human Rights Act 1998);
- some evidence has been given more attention than something else;
- the Complaints Board have not followed our procedures, so the process was not fair; or
- no reasonable person could have reached the decision.
36 A legally qualified independent advisor, who was not involved in making the original decision, will decide whether or not to allow your appeal. They will normally make their decision using only the information for appeal put forward by the person making the appeal. They will give you and the High Court Enforcement Officer reasons for their decision.
37 The Complaints Board will set a date for the appeal hearing in front of the Appeals Board. The Appeals Board will carry out the hearing in line with points 25 to 28 above.
38 The Appeals Board may:
a confirm the decision of the Complaints Board;
b reject the decision of the Complaints Board; or
c change the decision of the Complaints Board.
39 The Appeals Board will normally only reconsider the parts of the decision under appeal, based on the reasons put forward by the person who is making the appeal. However, there may be exceptional circumstances where they may re-consider other parts of the decision. The decision of the Appeals Board is final.
40 This complaints procedure does not prevent you or the High Court Enforcement Officer from taking your case to Court (if this applies). It does also not prevent you or the High Court Enforcement Officer from taking your case to other regulatory organisations at any time, but we will not investigate a complaint while it is being looked at by someone else. You may use decisions or recommendations from our Complaint's Board or Appeal Board's as evidence in any action that follows, including taking the case to the Lord Chancellor or the Court. We may make available the information and notes of any discussions used as evidence in any other legal proceedings.
41 We will keep all letters, papers, documents and other information connected to the complaint confidential, and we will store any documents we have securely. We will not give any information to any other organisation unless:
a we need to by law (except cases which are referred to the Lord Chancellor);
b we have your permission to do so; or
c the information is already available to the public.
Goverment Response to Consultation Paper
Today saw the long awaited Goverment Response to the Consulation Paper that took place back in May 2012 onRead More >>
High Court Enforcement Officers Association Celebrates its 125th Anniversary
by Martin Leyshon Chair of the HCEOARead More >>