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From 2016 to 2019 the number of County Court Judgments (CCJs) recorded in the April of each year increased annually. In April 2020, the number of CCJs registered plummeted to just 31,351, compared to a record 114,099 in April the year prior. April 2021 saw a slight return to normality at 64,056 CCJs, potentially due to the removal of forbearance measures introduced to protect the financially vulnerable during the pandemic.

The total value of CCJs, or ‘amount’, follows a similar pattern to the number of CCJs, excluding April 2019 where the number of CCJs increased while the amount decreased from £202 million, to £201 million. This may be expected as more CCJs is likely to equate to a higher total value. As with the number, the total value of CCJs in April 2020 plummeted to just £101 million, half that of the previous year. Moving into April 2021, the total value reached £154 million; an increase from April 2020 but still a quarter less than 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

At Registry Trust, we maintain the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for the UK and Ireland, and have access to live data regarding monetary judgments, which can act as an indicator of indebtedness or financial difficulty. Through our data we can assess spatial or temporal variances in judgment levels, such as this assessment of CCJs through a pre-pandemic, mid-pandemic, and into a post-pandemic society.

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Despite the reduced number of CCJs, the average value of CCJs peaked in 2020 at £3,237.71, before decreasing to pre-pandemic levels in April 2021. Meanwhile, the median value of CCJs increased steadily from April 2018 to April 2021, peaking at £830. This means that although the number and total value of CCJs decreased as a result of the pandemic, the average and median value of CCJs that were registered, increased. This supports the notion that the average value of debts is increasing.

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A four-year average between 2016 and 2019 (pre-pandemic years) shows CCJs amounted to 82% of all transactions on our Register. As the pandemic hit, April 2020 saw CCJs total only 65% of transactions. This increased slightly in April 2021 to 73%. The rate of CCJs, satisfaction and cancellation rates increased in April 2020. Compared to an average four-year satisfaction rate of 12% from 2016 to 2019, the satisfaction rate soared to 25% of all transactions in 2020. This could also partially as a result of our ‘Get Satisfaction’ campaign which seeks to educate the public on the importance of going through the correct process to fully ‘satisfy’ judgments. Similarly, the cancellation rate (when a judgment is paid within one month and is removed from the Register) peaked at 9%. As we entered the post-pandemic phase, both satisfaction and cancellation rates decreased to levels more typical of pre-pandemic levels.

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A closer insight into the consumer, corporate, or non-corporate defendant type in April 2016 to April 2021, shows the proportion of consumer CCJs peaked in 2019 before decreasing in 2020, to its lowest levels in five years. The steady increase of consumer CCJs into April 2021 perhaps indicates a return to normality. Countering consumer CCJs, the proportion CCJs that were corporate and non-corporate (businesses) peaked in April of 2020; possibly representative of businesses struggling more financially than consumers mid-pandemic. Unlike consumer CCJs, the proportion of both corporate and non-corporate CCJs decreased in April 2021, indicating improved commercial financial stability.

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A breakdown of the value of CCJs in April from 2016 to 2021 shows CCJs of a high value to increase as the pandemic began, from 2019 to 2020. This included CCJs valued £3000+, £2000-£3000 and £1500-£2000. The proportion of CCJs valued £2000-£3000 and £1500-£2000 continued to increase into post-lockdown April 2021. Countering this, the proportion of CCJs with a low value decreased, including values £100-£500, £500-£1000, and £1000-£1500. The proportion of CCJs valued £100-£500 continued to decrease into April 2021.

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Each year, a clearer depiction of how CCJs, satisfaction, and cancellation rates altered as a result of the pandemic will be apparent, aiding our understanding of how household and commercial finances change after a detrimental economic event. It will be interesting to evaluate how these trends continue into April 2022 and beyond.

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