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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Ordinary Cause: Introduction and definition

This section of the manual provides information about

  • ordinary cause (OC) proceedings in Scotland and
  • the arrangements you need to make with the court when taking OC.

What is ordinary cause

Ordinary cause or ordinary action is a legal process and is any civil action raised in the sheriff court, which is not a summary cause (DMBM675020).

A wide variety of actions are taken under ordinary cause procedures, for example

  • actions for separation or divorce
  • actions for damages or breach of contract
  • actions of furthcoming and multiplepoinding.

The actions you will be most concerned with are

  • actions for payment of sums of money
  • actions of furthcoming.

Why take an OC action

Whilst summary warrant (SW) would normally be your first choice ordinary cause proceedings can be a worthwhile alternative for debts over £5,000 for any debt for which an attachment could be carried out at the business premises, for example where SW action has previously proved unsuccessful.

As many businesses now lease or hire vehicles and equipment an “attachment” in such circumstances would be ineffective. Though a SW arrestment can be pursued, an ordinary cause in the sheriff court with its attendant publicity might, in some cases, prove more effective and encourage prompt payment in the future.

When a decree is awarded against a debtor an entry is made in Stubbs Gazette. Thedebtor’s credit rating and status with other creditors may be affected as a result.

Ordinary cause actions however can be time consuming.