Are bailiffs ever used to enforce civil damages judgments as they are for fines and evictions?

If a defendant wishes to get out of paying the compensation ordered due, how hard is it for then to weasel lie or avoid their way out of doing so?

In matters of welfare tax or social housing frauds, statutes specifically give powers to DWP HMRC or local authorities to access one's bank accounts in investigations. What about in evasion of civil judgments?

I've been told that simply by claiming destitution one can easily get out of a judgement of £10000 by agreeing to a payment plan of £100/month and then in 5 months' time, just say you can't pay again and just make it so much effort for the plaintiff to bother chasing up and arguing at every step that it isn't worth it. Is that true?

  • The defendant who wishes not to pay has the same options as someone who wishes not to pay most other debts: bankruptcy. Lying about how much money one has in the bank is a bad idea, because that lie will come to light very quickly. There may be other more effective ways to hide assets, however.
    – phoog
    Jun 6 at 9:01
  • What are the more effective ways? There is a potential defendant I'm thinking of who I know likes to buy crypto currency because they've said it before.
    – Joseph P.
    Jun 6 at 9:09
  • I don't know much about asset hiding, but I've heard of things such as elaborate corporate structures and offshore accounts in countries with strong bank secrecy laws.
    – phoog
    Jun 6 at 9:13
  • @JosephP. that could very well be a case of asset stripping, which is a crime. If the judge finds out that the defendant has been making operations(crypto, but also underselling assets to strawmen, and similar) to avoid paying his liabilities, the defendant is in for a lot of trouble.
    – SJuan76
    Jun 6 at 9:30

1 Answer 1


These powers

  1. Find out what the debtor can afford to pay

  2. Send bailiffs to collect payment

  3. Get money deducted from wages

  4. Freeze assets or money in an account

  5. Charge the debtor’s land or property

Of course, one of the things a plaintiff should do before commencing legal action is to make sure the defendant isn’t “judgement proof” i.e. doesn’t have the money (or insurance) to pay if you win.

  • What if they have crypto currency? They could deny that but then there would be transactions from their bank accounts to crypto currency exchanges though I know they also have a wide variety of bank accounts, perhaps more than 5, but is it possible to scrutinize their bank statements?
    – Joseph P.
    Jun 6 at 9:11
  • Do England and Wales have the equivalent of debtor's interrogatories and depositions in which judgment debtors must disclose their assets under oath and penalty of contempt of court?
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 6 at 22:10
  • 1
    @ohwilleke yes, its part of the power to "Find out what the debtor can afford to pay"
    – Dale M
    Jun 6 at 22:36

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