Dealing With Foreign Judgments


As markets become increasingly global, so problems can arise between individuals or companies based in different legal jurisdictions.
Judgments obtained against foreign persons or companies can be categorised into two distinct types:
  • judgments in England and Wales that are to be enforced abroad (note ‘abroad’ also means Scotland or Northern Ireland, as well as further afield); and
  • judgments reached abroad to be enforced in England and Wales.
Methods of registration of judgments and the legislation applicable vary depending on the country of origin of the judgment and are divided into three categories:
1.      European Countries;
2.      Commonwealth states or countries that have a bilateral treaty with the UK; or
3.      Countries with which there is no treaty.
Whether or not a judgment from outside England and Wales can be registered here depends on whether certain conditions are met. The original judgment or certified copy thereof (along with a translation, if applicable) must be lodged in the High Court, accompanied by an affidavit supporting the application. Notice need not be given to the judgment debtor of this. If the necessary conditions are met, the judgment will be registered and the judgment debtor will be notified in person. Once registered, a foreign judgment is treated as a High Court judgment. There are limited circumstances in which judgments can be set aside, which again depend on the governing legislation of the particular judgment.
In the EU it is relatively straightforward to register a UK debt and the Brussels Convention provides that judgments shall normally be recognised in other signatory states without requiring any special procedures.
In Commonwealth countries, such as Singapore and New Zealand, and those with which the UK has a bilateral treaty, such as India, Canada and Australia, registration of judgments can occur unless the court is satisfied that it falls under a statutory exception.
In situations in which a foreign judgment originates from a country with which there is no treaty with the UK, the usual practice is to bring an action using the judgment as evidence of the claim and the extent of the debt. This practice applies to many countries: for example, the UK has no reciprocal treaty with the USA, China, Russia, Japan and most Central and South American countries.
If you need to enforce a judgment from England and Wales in a country in which there is no treaty with the UK, it is first worth finding out whether the judgment debtor has any assets in the UK. If they do not, seek legal advice before taking any action as options vary with regard to expense and practicality.
The procedures relating to the enforcement of foreign judgments are continually changing and care should be taken to ensure that you are applying the correct rules to each individual circumstance.
If you would like assistance with recovering an international debt, contact us.

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