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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: county court proceedings: reviewing the enforcement strategy: failure to attend the ‘Order to obtain information’ hearing

If a person who has been ordered to attend court:

  • fails to attend
  • refuses at the hearing to take the oath or to answer any question
  • otherwise fails to comply with the order

the court will refer the matter to the circuit judge.

If the circuit judge is satisfied that the order was properly served and that travelling expenses were paid to the person ordered to attend (if that person asked for them) the judge may make a committal order against that person for contempt of court.

The judge will direct that the order be suspended provided the person:

  • attends court at a date and time specified
  • complies with the terms of that and the original order.

A ‘Suspended committal order for disobedience (order to attend court for questioning)’ (form N79A) will be prepared by the court and will be sent to you for service.

Attending the Suspended committal order hearing

Grade of officer attending

It is essential that an Officer grade or above attends the suspended committal order hearing.

The suspended committal order hearing

The suspended committal order hearing will be conducted in the same way as in the original hearing (DMBM666650) if the person attends. Exceptionally, where the original order was to attend for questioning before a judge, or the judge making the suspended committal order so directs, the suspended committal order hearing will be before a judge. The judge would normally discharge the suspended committal if the person attends the hearing and co-operates.

Person fails to attend

If the person fails to attend court at the appointed time and place, and the judge is satisfied that the person has been duly served the judge will issue a ‘Warrant of arrest for disobedience (order to attend court for questioning)’ (form N40A). The court bailiffs will arrest the person named on the warrant who will then be brought before the court to consider whether the committal order should be carried out for contempt of court. A higher debt manager or above should attend that hearing.

This presents a further opportunity to question the person. If the person agrees to be examined at this stage, proceed with questioning.

Otherwise, ask the court to release the committal order and award you the court fee for the application and the travelling expenses you have paid.

Effect of the committal order

A person imprisoned for contempt of court can only be discharged from custody by order of the court. The person must first purge their contempt.

‘Purging contempt’ means simply that the person who has been committed to prison for failing to comply with a court order (this is the ‘contempt’) wishes to apologise and make amends for the act of disobedience. They may make written application to the court asking for release from custody.

Where you learn that the person intends applying for release from custody, make arrangements with the court to be present when they are questioned about their means (or their company’s means).

If exceptionally the person is released without providing evidence of means, refer the papers to the EIS Bradford CCP Technical Team (Debt Management Bradford) with a full report.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000) (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)