The number of County Court Judgments (CCJs) against businesses in England and Wales shot up by 12% in the first quarter of 2019, according to official figures from the Registry Trust.
A total of 35,779 CCJs were issued in the first three months of the year with a combined value of £107.2 million - a year-on-year increase of 6% from the same period in 2018. The figures show that judgments have gone up against both incorporated and non-incorporated businesses, part of a longer term trend which has seen the net value and frequency of CCJs increase.
The Registry Trust is a not-for-profit organisation which maintains a public record of all judgments, orders and fines issued by courts in England and Wales. Through its online portal, trustonline.org.uk, members of the public can search records and make requests for specific information.
No magic bullet
CCJs are issued at County Court against individuals or organisations that fail to pay their creditors. They represent a legal last resort in the debt recovery process, requiring creditors to file a claim at court and go through due legal process to prove they are owed the debt.
The issuing of more CCJs against businesses which default on their debts will be welcomed in some quarters as a sign that the legal system is doing its job in protecting creditors. But a rise in the number and value of CCJs means more businesses are struggling to meet their debt obligations and is often seen as a sign of wider trouble in the economy.
As Mick McAteer of the Registry Trust commented: “Business judgment data is an important indicator of the state of the economy. The number and value of judgments have risen for the third year in a row. But it is worth noting that these levels are still well below the peaks seen just after the financial crisis in 2009”.
For creditors, we would always advise caution against viewing a CCJ as some kind of magic bullet for recovering your debt. As already noted, CCJs should really only be used as a last resort, because they add cost to the debt recovery process and can take a considerable amount of time to get through the legal system. And even if you do win your claim, there is no guarantee the debtor has the money to pay you - it just means that recovery action will eventually be passed into the hands of bailiffs.
Rather than rushing to pursue a CCJ, you will get a much faster and more amicable resolution through a debt collection agency. In most cases, if a debtor is able to pay, the involvement of a debt collector and leveraging the threat of legal action will be enough to recover your money, without the time, effort and expense of going down the legal route.