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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

From
HM Revenue & Customs
Updated
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Enforcement action: county court proceedings: reviewing the enforcement strategy: conducting interviews with judgment debtors

Whenever you interview a judgment debtor in person, you should ensure that the information obtained is sufficiently detailed and comprehensive to present as evidence to the court if required, this is particularly appropriate when considering whether to issue a judgment summons (DMBM668030 onwards).

Who should interview the judgment debtor

Where possible the judgment debtor should be interviewed by the Field Force Officer who would normally attend a court hearing for the case. The interviewer must be prepared to attend a judgment summons hearing later if those proceedings are taken.

Before the interview begins

Before beginning an interview with a judgment debtor about their means, the officer conducting the interview must always make it clear to the judgment debtor from the outset that

  • they can seek legal advice or representation
  • they may choose not to answer questions
  • if they choose to answer questions they are providing the answers of their own free will
  • they may be liable to prosecution on the basis of their answers.

Conducting the interview

The interviewing officer should complete the Statement of County Court Judgment Debtor’s Circumstances, in accordance with the answers provided by the judgment debtor. You will find it best if you

  • adopt a more conversational approach allowing questions to flow more naturally
  • do not necessarily adhere to the order of items on the form(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)  
  • phrase questions in such a way that the judgment debtor will have to give more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer (for example, you should ask ‘Where are you employed?’ rather than ‘Are you employed?’)
  • make sure that you cover all items on the form
  • listen carefully to what the debtor has to say
  • avoid being so wrapped up in planning your next question that you miss a vital point (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)  
  • do not simply accept the first answer you are given. Ask yourself whether it is consistent with previous answers, other information that you hold, or the judgment debtor’s general lifestyle and follow up the question as appropriate.

Statement of County Court Judgment Debtor’s circumstances

At the end of the interview, you should ask the judgment debtor to read the form and sign the declaration and statements at section 10. Do not attempt to force the judgment debtor to sign the statement if they are unwilling to do so.

Report of interview

Immediately after the interview you should always write a report in which you should confirm that you have made the judgment debtor aware of their rights

  • whether or not they signed the declaration, and if not
  • their reasons for not doing so.

The officer may be required to give evidence that the judgment debtor signed the form in their presence and be questioned about whether the judgment debtor provided the information voluntarily.