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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Enforcement action: county court proceedings: judgment summonses: outcome of the hearing

If the judge is satisfied with the evidence

If he or she is satisfied that the judgment debtor has the means to pay the judgment debt, or has had since the date of judgment or order, the judge may order the judgment debtor’s committal to prison for a term not exceeding six weeks. The judge will not order committal on the first hearing of a judgment summons if the judgment debtor is not present.

Normally the judge will suspend execution of the committal order to allow the judgment debtor to pay the amount of the judgment summons by instalments, or on a specified date. The court will send notice of the suspended committal order to the judgment debtor but not to you, so it is important to make proper notes of the judge’s decision at the time.

If they grant the committal order they should specify the length of the committal and the terms on which it is to be suspended. If the judge says they will (for example) “give the judgment debtor 14 days” it means 14 days to pay; not 14 days’ committal.

If the judge is not satisfied with the evidence

If the judge is not satisfied with your evidence, he or she may either:

  • adjourn or dismiss the case (DMBM668220)
  • make a new order for payment (by instalments or on a specified date) of the amount remaining unpaid under the judgment (DMBM668210)
  • make an AEO
  • order the judgment debtor to provide the court with a list of debtors or
  • make an administration order.

Later instalments under the original order

Unless the judge directs otherwise, where:

  • the original judgment was ordered to be paid by instalments
  • the judgment summons was issued for one or more (but not all) of those instalments and
  • the judge makes a committal order that is suspended

the terms of the original order shall be suspended for as long as the committal order is suspended.


You are only allowed the fee on issue of a judgment summons and travelling expenses paid to the judgment debtor if the court makes a committal order, or if the judgment debtor pays the amount on the judgment summons in full before the hearing.

If the judge makes a committal order, ask for the fees for the judgment summons (plus any travelling expenses paid to the judgment debtor) to be awarded to you.

Where the court does not award the fees, treat them as irrecoverable.

Report of hearing

Whatever the outcome of the hearing, always make a report on form 20C immediately after the hearing.