The High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) hosted the Ministry of Justice and the Enforcement Conduct Board at its recent AGM. Alan J Smith, Chair of the HCEOA, takes a look at its achievements over the past year and priorities for the next 12 months.
It’s been a busy year in the High Court enforcement world. That was reflected in the turnout, the calibre of speakers and the range of topics at our recent Annual General Meeting.
We welcomed senior level speakers from the Ministry of Justice, the Enforcement Conduct Board (ECB), and the Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM), who all shared valuable insights that will help shape the future of our profession.
Key priorities and achievements
The AGM for any organisation is a time to reflect and acknowledge progress, and there’s been a lot of that in the last 12 months for the HCEOA:
- Fee Scale review: The HCEOA engaged in ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) regarding the long-overdue review of High Court enforcement fees. The Association submitted a response to the MoJ's consultation on fees in February, and we are eagerly awaiting the report and recommendations. We know the Ministry has listened to all contributions to the debate and knows the importance of this issue.
- ECB: The HCEOA engaged with the ECB, submitted a response to its draft business plan, and participated in the ECB Stakeholder Engagement Forum.
- Freedom of Choice campaign: The HCEOA has been working on behalf of court users to advocate for a jurisdiction change concerning non-regulated judgments under £600.
- Safety in enforcement activity: The HCEOA remains committed to ensuring that enforcement activity is conducted safely, prioritising the protection of debtors, the public and enforcement agents.
- Education Partnership with CICM: The HCEOA has established a partnership with the CICM to revamp the Level 4 qualifications and certificates, ensuring a modernised education pathway for members. This collaboration enhances professionalism and provides access to high-quality learning materials.
Looking ahead to the future
The next steps on these issues will go a long way towards setting out the landscape for High Court enforcement for the next decade and more. We’re working with our members to help creditors, inform debtors and support government on a range of issues:
- Fee Scale Review: While awaiting the MoJ's report and recommendation, the HCEOA will continue discussions to ensure the fee scale review progresses as soon as possible, hopefully providing a satisfactory resolution to a situation where fees in England and Wales haven’t changed for the past seven years.
- Enforcement Conduct Board (ECB): We will continue to engage fully with the ECB, and it was great to hear its new Chief Executive Chris Nichols at our AGM talking about his passion and determination for developing a shared truth around enforcement and to ensure it is a listening organisation – both are vital for its long term success.
- Freedom of Choice campaign: Collaborating closely with the MoJ, we are continuing to make the case for change alongside the fee review, and are hopeful that 2023 is the year for change here.
- Body Worn Video (BWV): The MoJ is developing a consultation document, guidelines, and a complaint process for BWV. The HCEOA will provide updates on these developments, and we anticipate their publication in the next few months.
- HMCTS Digital Reform: Preliminary discussions with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have been held regarding the digitisation of its processes. We’re hugely supportive of this important modernisation and the flexibility it will provide for government and other parties.
- Promoting diversity: The HCEOA has initiated a long-term effort to encourage a more diverse profession, aiming for increased representation on the HCEOA Board. This initiative acknowledges the importance of diversity and inclusion in shaping the future of the association.
We will continue to advocate and push for a meaningful fee scale review, to promote safety and fairness in enforcement, and to pursue a change in jurisdiction orders that will allow greater freedom of choice for court users.
Collaboration with bodies like the MoJ, ECB, and CICM will be absolutely critical moving forward, as we look ahead to another 12 months of progress and an equally successful AGM in 2024.