Many businesses and individuals who are owed money sadly become accustomed to hearing explanations and excuses for non-payment. However, as one case showed, specialist lawyers do not give up and are adept at bringing relentless pressure to bear on debtors to meet their obligations.
The case concerned a judgment debt of about £230,000 owed by a financial adviser – the debtor – to a former client – the creditor. With a view to enforcement, the creditor obtained an order directing the debtor to submit to an oral examination before a judge at which he would be required to provide documents and undergo cross-examination as to his financial and other resources.
The debtor gave various reasons why it was difficult for him to attend such a hearing. He said, amongst other things, that he had suffered an injury to his foot, that he was abroad, that his travel was restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic and that he may have contracted the virus. An attempt to conduct the hearing remotely was aborted after the debtor encountered problems activating the video function of his computer.
After eventually succeeding in bringing the debtor before a judge, the creditor questioned his credibility and argued that the failure of the remote hearing was entirely due to his cavalier approach to the court order. The debtor asserted that he was an honest witness who had given complete answers to any questions put to him and who had engaged fully and earnestly with the examination process.
Following the hearing, the judge noted that parts of the debtor’s evidence, and his general demeanour, gave an adverse impression of his credibility. In failing to disclose a number of documents, including bank statements, during the hearing he had failed to comply with the examination order. The case was referred to a High Court judge for consideration of what punitive or coercive steps should be taken against the debtor in the light of that finding.