You will have seen our blog from a few weeks ago which analysed the meaning of county court judgments in their wider societal context. Towards the end of that blog, I mentioned that the process was not perfect, due to the limitations of the system which reduces some of the potential for reaching the ultimate conclusion of justice.
In today’s blog, I will outline some of the limits we, Registry Trust, have identified. These have formed the thinking behind two of our key campaigns which we continue to progress for the greater public good.
We receive a set amount of information from the courts, and these details are all provided on the public Register. These are:
- Defendant details – Name and address the judgment was recorded against
- Court name
- Case number
- Judgment date
- Judgment amount
- Satisfaction date, if satisfied
There are two crucial omissions from this list. Firstly, the claimant details and secondly, whether any sum of the total judgment amount is partially settled.
Let’s look a bit closer at the issue of claimant data.
Claimant data is not currently included in the judgment record, despite the fact that it is a matter of public record. This means if a defendant wants to find out the details of who took the judgment out against them, they need to contact the court, and pay a fee to obtain the information.
Thirty percent of customers who contacted our Customer Services team in 2018 were asking for the details of the claimant, and this trend still continues today. Our Customer Services Survey blog and the interview piece with the Customer Services Deputy Supervisor demonstrate this.
This anomaly has fuelled our #ClaimantData campaign. The campaign looks to change the regulations which specify the precise fields which must be shared with the Registrar (mentioned above) which do not currently include claimant details.
There are many reasons why this will be beneficial. Defendants deserve the right to access justice, exactly the same as claimants. By being able to quickly access claimant data, debtors would speedily know who the claimant was and what the judgment was for in the first instance.
It goes further than just the individual needs however. If claimant data was available there would be greater regulation and consumer protection. Firstly, it would give greater opportunity to understand the landscape of indebtedness in the UK. The macroeconomic value that claimant data would provide would bring deeper understanding of the rise and fall of CCJ levels. It would answer questions about whether these increases are sector-driven or geographically based for example.
This information would also help enhance debt advice services. Having a single source of debt information and data would feed a holistic overview to services offered by StepChange or Citizens Advice to see where their advice is most needed, and in turn create more direct services to better protect the financially vulnerable.
Regulators would be able to use the claimant data information to quickly identify which firms, and industries, are treating financially vulnerable customers fairly. This would allow conduct authorities such as the FCA, OFGEM and OFWAT to regulate the ways in which providers and clients are interacting.
The second omission that has a negative impact on the public is the lack of information around a partially settled judgment.
Unlike claimant data, partially settled judgments will not affect every judgment. However, an in-house analysis revealed that 5% of judgments on the Register were partially settled. This may seem low, but when applied to the England and Wales register, alone, it equates to just below 200,000 judgments. That’s a large number of people with out of date information.
The consequence of this omission is felt by defendants. With no recognition of partial settlements, a defendant is subjected to the negative effects of judgment for the full six year period, despite their repayment. There are subsequent spill-over effects on the credit information market where the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, through no-one’s fault.
The overriding theme is the same we seen when exploring the omission of claimant data. It limits defendants to a certain category and experience of having a judgment, when in reality each case is individual and unique.
To ensure defendants equally get opportunity for justice and transform their financial life for the better, there needs to be greater respect for the information they require to do so.
At Registry Trust, our strategic mission is Public Data for the Public Good. This fundamentally rests upon access, transparency and accountability for all. Public does not refer to just claimants, or just defendants. We believe that judgments and the Register for Judgments, Orders and Fines should be governed by the same principles.
If you want any more detail on CCJs and the judgments process, please visit our Help Topic pages which answer specific questions about different types of judgments and how different jurisdictions handle each process.