15 January / janvier 2009

Strasbourg, 24 November 2009

CEPEJ-GT-EXE(2009)6

EUROPEAN COMMISSION

FOR THE EFFECTIVENESS OF JUSTICE

(CEPEJ)

WORKING group ON EXECUTION

(CEPEJ-GT-EXE)

Report of the 2nd meeting

(Strasbourg, 15-16 October 2009)


1.    The Working Group on Execution (CEPEJ-GT-EXE) of the European Commission for the Effectiveness of Justice (CEPEJ) held its 2nd meeting on 15 and 16 October 2009 in Strasbourg.

2.    The meeting was chaired by Mr John MARSTON (United Kingdom).

3.    The agenda and the list of participants appear, respectively, in Appendices I and II to this Report.

I.          Information from the Secretariat

4.    The Secretariat thanked all members of the Working Group for agreeing to do without French interpretation and to hold the current meeting in English only, for budgetary reasons.

5.    The Secretariat welcomed Mr Fredrik SUNDBERG, Deputy Head of Department for the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. He explained that although his department’s job involved the execution of ECHR decisions by State authorities, it still had an interest in the work of the CEPEJ on execution. Indeed, there was no doubt that certain solutions or guidelines aimed at individuals and courts could be applied to states which had difficulties in executing the Court’s decisions.

II.         Preparation of draft guidelines and quality standards on enforcement to ensure effective implementation of the existing Recommendation on enforcement

6.    The Secretariat thanked the members of the Group for their contributions making it possible to amplify the structure providing a framework for the guidelines which had been devised at the first meeting of the CEPEJ-GT-EXE (Document CEPEJ-GT-EXE(2009)2). This had been prepared in the light of Recommendation Rec(2003)17 on execution, the future guidelines for which were intended, where necessary, to supplement the provisions therein.

7.    The Secretariat also recalled that between the two CEPEJ-GT-EXE meetings it had appointed an un expert, Mr Julien Lhuillier (France) to prepare the draft guidelines on the basis of the above-mentioned contributions and of the report entitled “Enforcement of court decisions in Europe” which he had already written for the CEPEJ (“CEPEJ Studies” Series, No. 8).

8.    Mr Lhuillier had submitted two documents (English only) to the Secretariat, for which he was sincerely thanked:

§     Guidelines for a better implementation of the existing Recommendation on enforcement (Document CEPEJ-GT-EXE(2009)4);

§     European quality standards for a better consultation of enforcement systems and a better efficiency of enforcement services (CEPEJ-GT-EXE(2009)5 – see Appendix IV to this report).

9.    Mr Lhuillier’s presentation of the project afforded a better understanding of how the contributions of the GT-EXE members had been accommodated within the structure; he accordingly drew attention to the following elements:

§     Section on “Accessibility of enforcement services” (their context): the first sub-section in fact brought together two very different ideas, so that to some extent the “context” of enforcement had lent substance to the introduction since the ideas put forward therein were at once important and general. “Accessibility of enforcement services” had been reworked and, for the sake of coherence, material relating to financing had been placed elsewhere, in the discussion of enforcement costs. On the other hand, material concerning access to services had been amplified with excerpts from other contributions;

§     The section on “Notices to parties and third parties” had been little changed for the sake of the document’s consistency, but the remarks concerning the plainness of the language used had been placed in the section on accessibility;

§     The section on “Enforceable title” had been rearranged to take into account the diversity of existing legal systems. Excerpts from other contributions had been moved to this section in order to give the whole document a European character in keeping with the CEPEJ’s expectations. Sub-headings, true to the work programme that the Working Group had set itself at the first meeting, had been added;

§     The content of the section on “Availability of stakeholders in the enforcement procedure” had been removed as a section it its own right, for several reasons: much of the detail envisaged at the first meeting had finally not been elaborated (this was now done, but in different places), some passages seemed unsuitably positioned (for example judges, the Court and the police were not parties in enforcement), certain considerations did not receive practical application in the form of guidelines (eg: catalogue of possible definitions of a claimant); finally, it appeared odd to leave it until part 3 of the document to define the nature of a claimant, a defendant, a judge, etc. On balance, many snippets from this part had provided inspiration for the glossary, the introduction or other passages in the document ;

§     The section on “Enforcement agents” had been little changed although some arguments had been transposed to other parts of the document (eg: geographical distribution; supervision and control). Others had sometimes been consolidated under the one sub-heading within the section;

§     The section on “Information about debtors and assets” had been given a new title to reflect the homogeneous content of the document (the term “defendant” being preferable; see glossary). In substance, the changes were chiefly intended to ensure that the wording of the sentences was better suited to the function of guidelines. The phraseology was henceforth less didactic and more consistent with CEPEJ usage, directed at professionals. The sub-headings had also been simplified for the sake of readability;

§     The part dealing with procedure and the relevant standards had been removed by the expert and put in a document on quality standards;

§     The section on “Costs of enforcement”, minimally amended, now embodied all issues relating to costs (for example legal aid). In this context, the terminology had been made uniform and certain concepts redefined (Enforcement costs/fees; transparency of costs/clarity of fees, etc.). All terms relating to enforcement costs had been defined in the glossary. The GT agreed to take care to maintain high precision in the distinctions between these terms, already the subject of advanced studies by the CEPEJ (Studies, No. 8) and of discussions with the International Union of Judicial Officers.

§     In the section on results and lead-times, the sub-section on timeframes took account of the CEPEJ’s work on reasonable and predictable lead-times. All criteria of smooth and expeditious enforcement stated in the various contributions had been compiled in a single sub-section. Smooth enforcement had been defined in the glossary.

§     The section on “Supervision, control and disciplinary procedures” was positioned at the end of the document and conformed to the relevant CEPEJ studies (No. 8) and to the discussions pursued with the International Union of Judicial Officers.

10.  In accordance with the CEPEJ-GT-EXE members’ suggestions at their 1st meeting, the expert had thus prepared guidelines highlighting the best features of enforcement procedures, with all due regard for national differences, so as to constitute a practical tool for national authorities in charge of enforcement.

11.  The Working Group examined the draft guidelines drawn up by the expert and made a number of amendments (see Appendix III to this report). The amended text sought to underscore the expediency of laying down minimum standards of training for bailiffs, as this would help to improve their professionalism. Finally, it included the quality standards for enforcement, which the expert had put in a separate document. Also mentioned were certain particularly problematic aspects of enforcement procedure such as timeframes, number of bailiffs per country, ethics, seizure of personal property, the human side of the procedure, etc.

12.  The Working Group gave itself a week to make the final changes to the guidelines, and instructed the Secretariat to submit them afterwards to the CEPEJ for adoption at its 14th plenary meeting (9-10 December 2009).

13.  It was also agreed to transmit the guidelines after adoption, through the Secretariat of the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) to the Working Group set up under the Council of Europe Programme entitled “Building a Europe for and with children”, aimed especially at improving justice for children.

14.  The Secretariat thanked all members of the Working Group, the observers and the expert for having worked so effectively and thus enabled the CEPEJ-GT-EXE to carry out its terms of reference within the specified time of one year.


APPENDIX I

Agenda

1.         Adoption of the agenda

            Adoption de l’ordre du jour

2.         Information by the Secretariat

            Information du Secrétariat

3.         Preparation of draft guidelines and quality standards on enforcement aimed to ensure an effective implementation of the existing Recommendation on enforcement

      Préparation d’un projet de lignes directrices et de normes de qualité sur l’exécution           visant à assurer une application effective de la Recommandation existante sur l’exécution

4.         Other business

            Questions diverses


APPENDIX II

Liste des participants

Andrei ABRAMOV, Deputy Head of Organisation of Judgment Execution Proceedings, Federal Bailiff Service of the Russian Federation, MOSCOW, THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION, Apologised / Excusé

Karl-Heinz Brunner, Stv. Bundesvorsitzender, German Union of Judicial Officers, Heidebuckelweg 12, D – 69118 HEIDELBERG, GERMANY

Fokion GEORGAKOPOULOS, Senior Legal Advisor of the State, ATHENS, GREECE

Geert LANKHORST, Senior Policy Advisor, Department Acces to Justice H 19.17, Ministry of Justice,  Postbox 20301, 2500 EH  DEN HAAG, THE NETHERLANDS

Ana LOVRINOV, Judge at the Municipal Civil Court of Zagreb, Ulica Grada Vukovara 84, 10000 ZAGREB, CROATIA

Claire NOTARI, Huissier de Justice près la Cour d’Appel et les tribunaux de Monaco, 17 boulevard Albert 1er, 98000 MONACO

John Marston (President), Former Chairman of the High Court Enforcement Officer's Association in England and Wales, 1st Floor, tameway Tower, 48 Bridge Street, WALSALL, WEST MIDLANDS WS1 1JZ, UNITED KINGDOM

John STACEY, Deputy Head of Civil Law and Justice Division
Access to Justice Directorate, Ministry of Justice, Post Area 2.10, 102 Petty France, DX 152380 Westminster 8, LONDON, SW1H 9AJ, UNITED KINGDOM

Georg STAWA, Public Prosecutor, Directorate for Central Administration and Coordination, Dept PR 1, Federal Ministry of Justice,  Museumstrasse 7, 1070 VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Observers / Observateurs

INTERNATIONAL UNION OF BAILIFFS / UNION INTERNATIONALE DES HUISSIERS DE JUSTICE ET OFFICIERS JUDICIAIRES (UIHJ) :

Léo NETTEN, Président  de l’UIHJ, 42-44 rue de Douai, 75009 PARIS, France

Mathieu CHARDON, Premier secrétaire, 5 bis rue Sainte-Sophie, 78000 VERSAILLES, FRANCE

European CommisSion / Commission européenne :Apologised / Excusé

WORLD BANK / BANQUE MONDIALE : Apologised / Excusé

EUROPEAN COMMITTEE ON LEGAL CO-OPERATION / COMITE EUROPÉEN DE COOPÉRATION JURIDIQUE (CDCJ) : 

Sabrina CAJOLY

Department for the execution of judgments of the court / Service de l’exécution des arrêts de la Cour (CM-EXEC)

Fredrick SUNDBERG, Deputy to the Head of Department/ Adjoint au Chef de service

Expert

Julien LHUILLIER, Chercheur, Institut de Criminologie et de Droit Pénal, Ecole des sciences criminelles, Université de Lausanne ICDP, 541 rue de Lyon, 01170 GEX, France : Apologised / Excusé

 

SECRETARIAT

Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs : Justice Division /

Direction Générale des droits de l’Homme et des affaires juridiques : Division de la Justice

Fax: +33 3 88 41 37 43

e-mail: cepej@coe.int

Stéphane LEYENBERGER,  Acting Head of the Justice Division, Secretary of the CEPEJ / Chef de la division de la justice a.i. ; Secrétaire de la CEPEJ

Muriel DECOT, Co-Secretary of the CEPEJ / Co-Secrétaire de la CEPEJ

Jean-Pierre GEILLER, Documentation

Annette SATTEL, Communication

Elisabeth HEURTEBISE, Assistante

Nata KAREZELIDZE, Trainee / Stagiaire


APPENDIX III

DRAFT GUIDELINES

FOR A BETTER IMPLEMENTATION

OF THE EXISTING RECOMMANDATION ON ENFORCEMENT

(as prepared by the CEPEJ-GT-EXE during its 2nd meeting)

INTRODUCTION

Methodology

1.      At the Council of Europe’s 3rd Summit (Warsaw, May 2005), the Heads of State and Government undertook to “make full use of the Council of Europe’s standard-setting potential and promote implementation and further development of the Organisation’s legal instruments and mechanisms of legal co-operation”. At this summit, it was decided to “help member states to deliver justice fairly and rapidly”.

2.      As the Secretary General of the Council of Europe underlined in October 2005, the enforcement of judicial decisions is an essential element in the functioning of a state based on the rule of law. It constitutes a serious problem both at national and European level (CM/Monitor(2005)2 of 14 October 2005)

3.      This statement, as confirmed by the relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and problems in the enforcement of its judgments, as well as the work of the CEPEJ conducted the Committee of Ministers to dedicate a monitoring process for the enforcement of national judicial decisions. Importants developments of the case-law of the EctHR since the drafting og the Recommendation. CePEJ will take count of that.

4.      The CEPEJ, whose statute includes the objective of facilitating the implementation of the Council of Europe’s international legal instruments concerning efficiency and fairness of justice, included enforcement of judicial decisions into the list of its priorities. As a first step, the CEPEJ commanded an in-depth study relating to the issues of enforcement in Member states, in order to gain a better understanding of how this works and to facilitate the application in practice of the relevant Council of Europe standards and instruments. The study, carried out by the legal scholars of the University of Nancy (France) and the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law (Lausanne)[1], proposed a set of guidelines intended to facilitate the application of the principles contained in the Council of Europe recommendations[2].

5.       As a second step, the CEPEJ created a working group on enforcement of judicial decisions (CEPEJ GT-EXE)[3], in charge of elaborating Guidelines for effective application of the existing Council of Europe standards. On the basis of the proposals made in the In-Depth Study, each member of the Working group drafted a brief treating a definite set of issues relating to the future Guidelines. The CEPEJ then mandated a scientific expert, M. Julien LHUILLIER (France), to carry out the synthesis of the elaborated briefs.

Principles and Objectives of Enforcement

6.      For the rule of law to be maintained and for court users to have confidence in the court system, there must be effective but fair enforcement processes. However, enforcement may only be achieved where the defendant has the means or ability to satisfy the judgment.

7.      Enforcement must strike a balance between the needs of the claimant and the rights of the defendant. Member states are encouraged to monitor enforcement procedures, control court management and take appropriate actions to ensure procedural equality of the parties.

8.      The enforcement agent needs to be allowed reasonable flexibility to make arrangements with the defendant on the mode of enforcement, where there is a consent between the claimant and the defendant. Such arrangements must be subject to thorough control to ensure the enforcement agent’s impartiality and the protection of the claimant’s and third parties’ interests. Bailiffs autonomy is important to have such flexibility. They can have the role of a “post judicial mediator”, which is more that a strict negociator) during the enforcement stage.

Court Processes

9.      Member states must take measures to ensure information and transparency of the activities of the court and those of the enforcement agent at all stages of the process, provided that the rightsnof the persons are safeguarded.

10.   Notwithstanding the role of the court in the enforcement procedures, there needs to be effective communication between the court, the enforcement agent, the claimant, and the defendant. All the stakeholders ought to have access to information on the ongoing procedures and their progress.

11.   Member states must avail the potential parties to enforcement procedures with information on the efficiency of the enforcement services and procedures, by establishing performance indicators against specified targets and time bound procedures.

12.   Each authority in charge of the enforcement process must be bear responsibility for the effectiveness of the service. Accountability may be achieved by management reports and/or customer feedback. The reports must allow verification if the judgment has been executed or if genuine efforts have been made within reasonable time whilst respecting the equality of the parties. (the case-law of the EctHR is more strict – to be completed. Ex: adequate supervision of the enforcment activities)

I.        PREPARATION OF ENFORCEMENT

1.      Accessibility of enforcement services

1.1.        Distribution of enforcement services

13.   The geographical distribution of enforcement agents within a country should ensure the widest possible coverage of all potential parties. Within a single member state, when different authorities are tasked with taking action in different areas of enforcement (i.e. the judge responsible for enforcement and treasury officials), it is important to pay close attention to the distribution, both geographical and case-type, of all the authorities concerned. Importance of the geographical choice.

14.   Where enforcement agents carry on their profession as a private practice, member states should ensure that there is sufficient competition and clearly defined geographical competence.

1.2.        Language Used

15.   Measures should be taken to ensure that the parties are able to understand the process of enforcement, in which they are involved, and, where possible, conduct the process themselves. To this effect, the enforcement processes and legislation must be rendered as clear and comprehensible as possible (i.e. by creating plain-language versions of legislation, enforcement handbooks, by reducing the time of contact the parties need to have with the court both in person and by correspondence, etc.), in order for the parties to understand the whole process.

1.3.        Availability of stakeholders involved in the enforcement procedure

16.   All of the stakeholders that are likely to be involved in enforcement processes (police, experts, translators, interpreters, local authorities, risk insurances, child care, etc.) should have a legal status to help the bailiffs and should be promptly available, in case their help is necessary for the enforcement of a judgment. Social workers should be particularly available in cases where children or other vulnerable persons are concerned by the enforcement procedure.

2.      Notices to parties and third parties

17.   Notices to parties concerning the enforcement of judicial decisions or enforceable titles or documents are an essential aspect of the law of enforcement. Due notification of parties is a necessary element of the fair trial, in the sense of Article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

                       

18.   The member states may draw up standard documents, to notify parties. These standard documents could relate to the different stages in the enforcement process and to any possible remedies allowing enforcement to be challenged. They could have the following purposes:

·         notifying the defendants of the consequences (including the cost of enforcement) they incur for failure to comply with a decision ordering them to pay;

·         notifying the defendants of the enforcement measures taken against them, as they are implemented, so as to enable the defendant to comply with or, where applicable, challenge each measure;

·         keeping the claimants fully informed of the stage reached by the enforcement procedure;

·         notifying the third parties to ensure, firstly, that their rights are upheld and, secondly, that they are able to fulfill any obligations incumbent on them and to be aware of the consequences of failure to comply.

19.   The notification in all cases must incite the defendant to execute the court order voluntarily and include a warning that in case of non-execution enforcement measures shall be used, including, if appropriate, that pecuniary sanctions can be apply to the defendant in case of non-compliance with the enforcement order (for ex. To do or not to do something).

20.   It should be possible to entrust enforcement agents with the service of notices. To this end, member states should determine conditions for a secure service of documents.

21.   Where notices generate rights or obligations, it is the duty of the enforcement agents to ensure that the parties are served with adequate notice

22.   Where the defendant’s assets are to be sold at a public auction following their seizure, potential buyers should be notified in advance by efficient means of communication, guaranteeing rapid dissemination of information to the broadest possible public, while safeguarding the defendant's privacy. Member states should propose minimum dissemination standards taking account of the nature of goods, their estimated value and the date of sale.

3.      Enforceable Title

3.1.        Definition and form of the title

23.   National legislative framework should contain a clear definition of what is considered an enforceable title and the conditions of its enforceability.

24.   Member states should draw up a common set of standards concerning the conditions of enforceability of titles.

25.   Enforcement titles should be drafted in clear and comprehensible way, leaving no space for misinterpretation.

3.2.        Priority in measures and assets

26.   The enforcement process should encourage the debtor to satisfy the execution voluntarily, providing that it does not prejudice the creditor.

27.    Following the principle of proportionality, the enforcement agent should be free to choose the order of priority to be followed while performing the seizure of assets (i.e. money resources, or in the absence thereof, movable assets, or in the absence thereof, immovable assets, etc.).

28.   National legislative framework referring to priority order in enforcement measures must be as clear and as detailed as possible.

29.   It is also recommended that Member states draw up together a common set of rules on priority order in enforcement measures. The Council of Europe, if possible in conjunction with the European Union, could help in this task.

4.      Enforcement agents

4.1.        Qualification requirements

30.   For fair administration of justice it is essential that the quality of enforcement should be guaranteed. Member states should accredit enforcement agents only if the candidates concerned are of a standard and training communserate with the complexity of their tasks. High quality of training of professionals is important for the service of justice and increase the trust of users in their justice system.

31.   Enforcement agents should also be required to follow compulsory continuous training.

32.   It is recommended that links be forged between national training institutions. Member states should ensure that enforcement agents are given appropriate training curricula and should set down common minimum standards for instructors in the different member states[4]

33.   Initial and continuous training could encompass:

·         the principles and objectives of enforcement;

·         professional conduct and ethics;

·         stages in the enforcement process;

·         the appropriateness, organization and implementation of enforcement measures;

·         the legal framework;

·         role-playing and practical exercises as appropriate;

·         assessment of trainees' knowledge;

·         international enforcement of judicial decisions and other enforceable titles.

4.2.        Organization of the profession & enforcement agent’s status

34.   With a view to good administration of justice, it is desirable that enforcement agents should be organized in a professional body representing all members of the profession, thereby facilitating their collective representation and the gathering of information.

35.   Within the member states which have established professional organizations of enforcement agents, membership of this representative body should be compulsory.

36.   Enforcement agents' status should be clearly defined so as to offer potential parties to enforcement procedures a local professional who is impartial, qualified, accountable, available, motivated and efficient.

37.   Where enforcement agents are state employees, they should enjoy appropriate working conditions and sufficient human and material resources.For example, enabling staff to work with access to functioning modern communication and IT equipment (computers, telephones, fax machines, Internet connections, job-specific upgradeable IT systems) and with appropriate means of transport sufficient to allow them to perform their role as effectively as possible.

4.3.        Rights and obligations

38.   Enforcement agents, as defined by a country's law, should be responsible for the conduct of enforcement operations and have sole competence for:

·         enforcement of judicial decisions and other enforceable titles or documents, and

·         implementation of all the enforcement procedures provided for by the law of the state in which they operate.

39.   Enforcement agents may also be authorized to perform secondary activities compatible with their role, tending to safeguard and secure recognition of parties' rights and aimed at expediting the judicial process or reducing the workload of the courts. These may be, among others:

·         debt recovery;

·         voluntary sale of moveable or immoveable property at public auction;

·         seizure of goods;

·         recording and reporting of evidence;

·         serving as court ushers;

·         provision of legal advice;

·         bankruptcy procedures;

·         performing tasks assigned to them by the courts;

·         drawing up private deeds and documents;

·         teaching.

40.   Enforcement agents should be obliged to perform their role whenever they are legally required to do so except in cases of impediment or where they are related by blood or marriage to a party. Enforcement agents should be precluded from being assigned disputed rights or actions in cases with which they are dealing.

41.   Where enforcement agents are liberal professionals, they should be obliged to open a non-attachable account specifically intended for depositing funds collected on behalf of clients. This account should be subject to audit. They should also be required to take out professional and civil liability insurance. Enforcement agents should benefit from social insurance cover.

4.4.        Remuneration

42.   Where enforcement agents are state employees, the state should ensure that they receive appropriate remuneration, particularly in the light of their level of training, the difficulties inherent in their task (especially stress-related difficulties and even potential dangers) and their heavy responsibilities.

4.5.        Ethics and professional conduct

43.   Enforcement agents should be subject to clearly stated rules of ethics and conduct, which could be set out in professional codes of conduct. These Codes of conduct should inter alia contain professional standards regarding:

·         information to be given to parties by enforcement agents concerning the enforcement procedure (grounds of action, transparency and clarity of costs, etc.)

·         the rules governing the formulation of notices to parties (enforcement agents' social role, duty of advice, etc.)

·         professional ethics (behavior, professional secrecy, ethical criteria governing the choice of actions, etc.)

·         smooth enforcement (predictability and proportionality of costs and lead-times, co-operation between enforcement services, etc.)

·         procedural flexibility (autonomy of enforcement agents, etc.)  

II.      REALISATION OF ENFORCEMENT

5.    Information about defendants and assets

5.1.        Information accessible to the claimant

44.   In order to ensure the claimant’s right to influence enforcement proceedings, the latter should be allowed to access public registers so that they can confirm essential information about the defendant, such as information identifying the defendant and his whereabouts for enforcement purposes and the data accessible through public registers (i.e. land registers, court registers of companies, etc.) subject to the freedom of information and data protections laws of the national State

45.   The aforementioned data should be available to the claimant upon a written request provided a sufficient proof of interest (i.e. judgment or another enforceable title). Member states are encouraged to provide a possibility of making such information available to the entitled persons by Internet through a secured access.

5.2.        Information accessible to the enforcement agent

46.   So that enforcement agents may produce an estimate of costs and ensure that any measures taken are proportionate to those costs, member states should allow them speedy and preferably direct access to information on the defendant’s assets Member states are encouraged to provide a possibility of making such information available to the enforcement agents by Internet through a secured access, if possible.

47.   In order to prevent the defendants from avoiding enforcement by relocating their assets, Member states are encouraged to establish a unique multi-source restricted access database about persons’ attachable assets (i.e. ownership rights over a vehicle, real estate rights, payable debts, tax returns, etc.). Member states should provide the database with an acceptable level of security, with respect to the risks incurred. Access of the enforcement agent to the database must be restricted to the data pertaining to the pending procedure and must be subject to thorough control. Member states should provide the defendants with effective legal means to ensure that any inquiry about their personal assets is justified.

48.   Co-operation between the various organs of state is essential for enabling a speedy access to the multiple-source information on defendants’ assets. Protocols and uniform procedures should be drawn up to ensure inter-departmental co-operation, on one hand, and cooperation between these departments and enforcement services, on the other hand.

          

5.3.        The duty to provide information

49.   All state bodies, which administer databases with information required for efficient enforcement, should have a duty to provide the information to the enforcement agent, within an agreed  time-limit.

5.4.        Data protection

50.   It is highly recommendable that national legislations on personal data protection may have to be adapted to allow efficient enforcement procedures. 

51.   Together with that, the enforcement agents must bear a responsibility for keeping a professional secret on any information that comes to their knowledge in the course of the proceedings. In case of breach of the duty, measures of disciplinary liability must be applicable, along with civil and criminal sanctions.

5.5.        Multiple use of information

52.   Member states are invited to consider allowing enforcement agents to reuse information on the defendant’s assets in subsequent procedures that involve the same defendant. The reuse of information should however be subject to clear and precise legal framework (i.e. setting strict timeframes for data retention, etc.).

6.    Costs of enforcement

6.1.        Regulation of costs

53.   Each member state is encouraged to introduce regulations governing the level of enforcement costs to ensure effective access to justrice notably through legal aid or limited waiver schemes, where such costs are likely to fall to the parties. The parties should be protected to ensure that they will pay only the costs determined by law.

54.   Member states which authorize the payment of fees by an claimant to an enforcement agent upon successful completion should establish a framework for such a practice and provide for the possibility of negotiation; the fees, even where negotiated, should come within a strictly regulated range in order to limit anti-competition practices (the risk of dumping where there is no lower limit) and the emergence of two-speed enforcement (risk of the more disadvantaged sections of society being denied high quality enforcement if there is no upper limit).

55.   Where, within the same member state, there are enforcement agents working in both the private and public sector, the state should avoid any discrimination in terms of the costs for the debtor between enforcement agents of different status but equal competence. 

56.   Member states should introduce a procedure whereby parties may challenge the costs of the enforcemet agents. 

6.2.        Transparency of enforcement costs[5]

57.   Where enforcement costs are likely to fall to the parties, the member states should ensure that the latter are informed as fully as possible about the enforcement costs (enforcement fees and the performance fees due upon successful completion). This information should be made available to the parties not only by the enforcement agents but also by the courts, consumer organisations, procedural codes or via the official Internet sites of the judicial and professional authorities.

58.   Because of the growing mobility of persons and services in Europe, there is an increasing need for international enforcement of court decisions. The transparency of enforcement costs must therefore go beyond mere domestic level: the member states should agree to set up a data base of the amounts charged for the procedural acts most frequently performed and make it as broadly available as possible, with the aim of giving persons in other member states access to each country's structure of charges[6].

6.3.        Clarity and predictability of enforcement fees

59.   Enforcement fees should be public. Member states are encouraged to require that any procedural document clearly indicate the amount of the action and provide for sanctions in the event of non-compliance (i.e. invalidity of documents failing to comply with the requirement).

60.   In the light of the defendant’s situation, enforcement agents should inform their clients about the type of action envisaged and the resulting costs at the beginning of and each stage in the procedure

61.   The clarity of fees is a factor in the transparency of enforcement costs. In order to be as intelligible as possible, the fee for an action should depend on a limited number of factors. The fee should be set out in the regulation as simply, clearly and concisely as possible.  

62.   Member states should exchange their experiences and consider the need to take certain factors into account, such as the amount of the debt, any particular urgency and the difficulties that the enforcement agent is likely to encounter.

6.4.        Relevance of taking action

63.   The ultimate cost of enforcement should be in due proportion to the remedy sought. States should endeavour to provide an effective enforcement procedure for all level of debts, either large or small. [Small claims procedure]

64.   For small debts, enforcement actions may be costly in relation to the sum recoverable. The interests of vulnerable defendants must be particularly taken into consideration, in accordance with the essential principle of proportionality.

65.   It is the responsibility of enforcement agents to take all reasonable and necessary steps in enforcement and to decide which enforcement action is most appropriate. Where costs are considered irrelevant or wrongfully incurred should be borne by the enforcement agent.

66.   Member states which grant legal aid should verify the relevance of the costs incurred, so that the community does not have to bear unjustified costs. 

67.   Enforcement agents may have a duty to offer proper advice and be required to explainclearly to claimants their situation and the relevance of the action they suggest be taken. Once this advice has been given, enforcement agents should be able to refuse to assist the claimant if they have advised that no action be taken.

6.5.        Predictability of enforcement costs

68.   In the light of the defendant’s situation, enforcement agents should inform their clients about the type of action envisaged and the resulting costs at the beginning of and each stage in the procedure

6.6.        Allocation of enforcement costs

69.   Enforcement fees should be borne by defendants, where he or she is solvent. Where the defendant is insolvent, the enforcement fees should be transferred to the claimant.

70.   Performance fees should always be borne by claimants.

71.   Where enforcement is deemed to be wrongful or irregular, liability for the costs should be borned by the parties who commissioned the wrongful or irregular act.

6.7.        Legal aid

72.   The fees charged by the court for producing the enforcement order should be proportionate to the real administrative costs involved. In order to guarantee access to justice, legal aid schemes, or alternatives funding schemes, should be available to claimants who are unable to pay these fees (i.e. by means of State funding or be remitting the fees). Where legal aid is granted, the State should avail itself with mechanisms allowing to recover its outlay from the proceeds of enforcement.

7.    Timeframes and reports

7.1.        Timeframes for enforcement procedures

7.1.1.               Reasonable and foreseeable time limits

73.     The time lines for enforcemement procedure should be reasonable and member states should not impose any cut-off deadlines for enforcement. [waiting times]

74.     Member state should set forth clear and precise criteria regarding the reasonable nature of the duration, which could vary according to the nature of the case and the type of action requested.

75.     In view of the importance of being able to foresee the length of enforcement proceedings from the point of view of legal certainty, member states should establish publicly accessible statistical databases enabling the parties to calculate the likely duration of the different enforcement measures possible in domestic legislation (i.e. attachment of salary, attachment of bank assets, and attachment of vehicle). The databases should be compiled in collaboration with enforcement professionals and should be made broadly available as possible, with the aim of giving persons in other member states access to each country's structure of duration.

76.     Member states should make provision for internal measures regarding the individual liability (administrative, civil, disciplinary and criminal) of enforcement agents in the event of failure to comply with enforcement deadlines.

77.     Member states must guarantee the effectiveness of the whole complaint and compensation system (i.e. a possibility of lodging a complaint for exceeding this duration; a time-limit for responding and a time-limit for processing complaints; compensation in the event of excessive duration of the procedure).  [General provision on liability and compensation for excessive delays]

7.1.2.               Factors of smooth and prompt enforcement

78.     In the courts, computerisation of working tools would greatly assist the transfer of files and information at the stage of the execution of decisions.

79.     At the stage of the execution of decisions, e-mail communication between the court, the enforcement agents and the parties should be possible.

80.     Member states may ensure that the legal framework of enforcement does not unnecessarily prolong the whole duration. Member states are encouraged in particular to take measures to ease the procedural enforcement framework to give enforcement agents the necessary autonomy to choose for themselves, without prior authorisation, the procedural steps that are the most appropriate for the case in question.

81.     Member states should also ensure that the defendant may take action to challenge enforcement measures within a reasonable timeframe, provided this does not deliberately halt or delay the enforcement proceedings, for exemble where a defendant whishes to appeal a decision, machinery may be in place to allow him to provide security for the protection of the claimant.

82.     Member states should provide for accelerated and emergency enforcement procedure in the cases where a delay could result in an irreversible damage (i.e. cases within the province of a family court, cases of defendant absconding, eviction, deterioration of assets, etc.).

83.     Priority should always be given to reaching agreement between the parties in order to coordinate enforcement timeframes (calendar of actions?). Such agreements should be subject to supervisory measures on the part of the court and, where needed, on the part of the professional organisation.

84.     The defendant’s allegations of misconduct against an enforcement agent should not hamper or delay the enforcement proceedings without a judicial intervention. Complaints against enforcement agent shopuld be investigated concurrently with the enforcement proceedings.

7.2.        Reporting on enforcement procedures

7.2.1.               Reporting on each enforcement measure

85.     The enforcement authority should regularly report to the claimant on the progress of the enforcement measures at all stages of the proceedings. (repetition?)

86.     With the claimant’s consent, the enforcement agent should be entitled to negotiate with the defendant on the mode of paying off the debt (i.e. in regular instalments after seizure or without seizure). (repetition?)

87.     The defendant should be informed as to the extend of his liability during the enforcement process.

7.2.2.               Reporting on completed enforcement procedure

88.     Once the claimant’s interests are satisfied, the information thereon should be communicated to the claimant, as well as to the general public. Member states are encouraged to establish clear regulations governing the obligation to report pending and/or completed enforcement procedures (eg. by the way of a register where situation of debtors are mentioned).

7.2.3.               Reporting to the general public

89.     For the sake of legal certainty, unsuccessful enforcement procedures should be reported to general public, as well as to the parties.

7.2.4.               European standards on information

90.     Member states are strongly encouraged to draw up together European quality standards regarding the information that needs to be provided to the parties and to the general public with respect to enforcement procedures[7].

8.    Supervision, control and disciplinary procedures

8.1.        Quality control of the enforcement proceedings

91.     In order to being able to undertake a quality control of the enforcement proceedings, each member State should establish European quality standards/criteria aiming at assessing  concretely, annualy, through an independent review system and random on-site inspection, the efficiency of the enforcement services. Among these standarts, there should be:

a. Clear legal framework of the enforcement proceedings establishing the powers, rights and responsibilities of the parties and third parties.

b. Rapidity, effectivity and reasonable cost of the proceedings

c. Respect of all human rights (human dignity, by not depriving the defendant of means of mere economic subsistence and by not interfering  disproportionaly with third parties’ rights, etc.)

d. Compliance with a defined procedure and methods (namely availability of legal remedies to be submitted to a court within the meaning of Article 6 of the ECHR)

e. The processes must be documented

f. Form and content of the documents have to be standardised

g. Data collection and setting up of a national statistic system, by taking into account, if possible, the CEPEJ Evaluation Scheme and key data of justice defined by the cEPEJ

h. Competences of enforcement agents

i. Performances of enforcement agents

j. The procedure, on a annual basis:

·         the number of pending cases,

·         the number of incoming cases,

·         the number of executed cases

·         the clearance rate,

·         the time taken to complete the enforcement

·         the success rates (recovery of debts, successful evictions, remittance of amounts outstanding, etc.)

·         the services rendered in the course of the enforcement (attempts at enforcement, time input, decrees, etc.)

·         the enforcement costs incurred and how they are covered

·         the number of complaints and remedies in relation to the number of cases settled.

92.   The performance data should be published

93.   Care should be exercised to ensure that once a problem is identified then only the problem is addressed and tackled. Regulation is expensive and adds layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and waste. A blanket approach to regulation reduces efficiency and robs enforcement agents of ambition

94.   These assessment criteria could be defined at a European level, in order to strengthen confidence between member states, particularly given the prospect of a growing number of international enforcement cases[8].

8.2.        Supervision and control of enforcement activities

95.   The authorities responsible for supervision and/or control of enforcement agents have an important role in guaranteeing also the quality of enforcement services. The member states should ensure that their enforcement activities are assessed on an ongoing basis. This assessment should be performed by a body external to the enforcement authorities (for exemple, by a professional body) and independent of the legislative and executive authorities. The member states' authorities should clearly determine the control procedures to be performed during inspections.

96.   Member states should ensure that the arrangement for monitoring the activities of enforcement agents does not hamper the smooth running of their work.

8.3.        Disciplinary procedures and sanctions

97.    Breaches of laws, regulations or rules of ethics committed by enforcement agents, even outside the scope of their professional activities, should expose them to disciplinary sanctions, without prejudice to eventual civil and criminal sanctions.

98.   Disciplinary procedures should be carried out by an independent authority. Member states should consider introducing a system for the prior filtering of cases which are filed merely as delaying tactics.

99.   An explicit list of sanctions should be drawn up, setting out a scale of disciplinary measures according to the seriousness of the offence. Disbarment or "striking off" should concern only the most serious offences (principle of proportionality between the breach and the sanction).

GLOSSARY

For the purposes of these Guidelines, the following terms should be understood as follows:

Enforcement: the putting into effect of court decisions, and also other judicial or non-judicial enforceable titles in compliance with the law which compels the defendant to do, to refrain from doing or to pay what has been adjudged (source: Recommendation Rec(2003) 17 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on enforcement).

Claimant: A party seeking enforcement. In civil cases, the claimant is usually a creditor, but the two terms are not synonymous as the claimant may equally well seek the enforcement of an “obligation to do” or “to refrain from doing”.

Clarity of enforcement fees: Enforcement fees should be set out simply, clearly and concisely. Clarity of enforcement fees is an indicator of the transparency of enforcement costs (q.v.).

Control of activities: Control of activities means control of the lawfulness of the actions carried out by the enforcement agents. It may be carried out a priori (before the enforcement agents act) or a posteriori (after the enforcement agent acts) by a “disciplinary” authority (See supervision of activities).

Defendant: A party against whom enforcement is sought (source: Recommendation Rec(2003) 17 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on enforcement). In civil cases, the defendant is usually a debtor, but the two terms are not synonymous (see Claimant).

Enforcement agent: A person authorised by the state to carry out the enforcement process (source: Recommendation Rec(2003) 17 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on enforcement).

Enforced case: In order to be enforced, the case must have been the subject of an action that has fully satisfied the claimant (in a civil case).

Enforcement costs: Enforcement costs consist of the enforcement expenses (= enforcement fees) and any performance bonus (= performance fees) paid by the claimant to the enforcement agent in the form of fees (See enforcement fees and performance fees).

Enforcement Fees: The expenses of the process itself, in other words, the total of the amounts for each action undertaken by the enforcement agent in the course of a single case (see Enforcement costs).

Enforcement services: All the professions performing the task of enforcement.

Enforcement timeframe: In theory, the period of action or waiting between the beginning and the completion of the enforcement process. In practice, it is the sum of the periods necessary for the completion of all the actions carried out by the enforcement agent.

Flexibility of enforcement: The nature of a system of enforcement that enables the agent to choose the procedural framework that is most appropriate to the features of a case. Flexibility of enforcement is closely connected with the autonomy of the enforcement agent (see Smooth enforcement).

Foreseeable time limits: In theory, the time within which the user is informed that the enforcement process should be completed. In practice, this time is often limited to the time necessary for the completion of the next enforcement measure.

Performance fees: The sum payable by the claimant to the enforcement agent in the event of satisfaction. Under the legislation of different countries fees may be negotiated, set in advance or prohibited (See Enforcement costs).

Predictability of enforcement costs: In theory, expenses of which the user is informed by the enforcement agent, usually corresponding to the expenses of the whole enforcement process. In practice, predictability is often limited to the expense necessary for the completion of the next enforcement measure. Predictability of expenses should not be confused with transparency (q.v.).

Quality (norms of or standards of): Quantitative or qualitative criteria making it possible to identify and/or supervise compliance with the minimum requirement of satisfactory enforcement.

Relevance of taking action: Relevance of taking action is the assessment of the appropriateness of starting an enforcement process. It is assessed differently by the claimant and the enforcement agent. It is an indicator of the predictability of enforcement costs (q.v.).

Stakeholders: persons involved non directly in the enforcement procedure

Smooth enforcement: Enforcement within a reasonable time with no administrative obstacles or unjustified periods of inactivity; this concept is based not only on the promptness of performance of actions, but also on promptness between the various actions. Flexibility of action (q.v.) is therefore a factor in smooth enforcement.

Supervision of activities: Supervision of activities means the process whereby an authority makes observations to the enforcement agent on his or her working methods (scheduling problems, lack of courtesy, etc.); it is a sort of simplified control that does not involve actual examination of a complaint, but the aim of which is to guarantee fair administration of justice (see Control of activities).

Third party: Neither claimant, nor defendant in the procedure.

Transparency of enforcement costs: Information about enforcement costs should be easily accessible. Transparency is an indicator of the relevance of taking action (q.v.) and should not be confused with predictability (q.v.).


APPENDIX IV

EUROPEAN QUALITY STANDARDS FOR

A BETTER EFFICIENCY

OF ENFORCEMENT SERVICES

(Document prepared by the expert, Mr Julien Lhuillier, on the basis of the structure drafted by the CEPEJ-GT-EXE members during their 1st meeting)

The content of this document has been included in the draft guidelines

INTRODUCTION

Methodology

1.    At the Council of Europe’s 3rd Summit (Warsaw, May 2005), the Heads of State and Government undertook to “make full use of the Council of Europe’s standard-setting potential and promote implementation and further development of the Organisation’s legal instruments and mechanisms of legal co-operation”. At this summit, it was decided to “help member states to deliver justice fairly and rapidly”.

2.    As the Secretary General of the Council of Europe underlined in October 2005, the enforcement of judicial decisions is an essential element in the functioning of a state based on the rule of law. It constitutes a serious problem both at national and European level (CM/Monitor(2005)2 of 14 October 2005)

3.    This statement, as confirmed by the relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and problems in the enforcement of its judgments, as well as the work of the CEPEJ conducted the Committee of Ministers to dedicate a monitoring process for the enforcement of national judicial decisions.

4.    The CEPEJ, whose statute includes the objective of facilitating the implementation of the Council of Europe’s international legal instruments concerning efficiency and fairness of justice, included enforcement of judicial decisions into the list of its priorities. As a first step, the CEPEJ commanded an in-depth study relating to the issues of enforcement in Member states, in order to gain a better understanding of how this works and to facilitate the application in practice of the relevant Council of Europe standards and instruments. The study, carried out by the legal scholars of the University of Nancy (France) and the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law (Lausanne)[9], proposed to create a Working Group on enforcement in charge of elaborating European Quality Standards for a better consultation of enforcement systems and a better efficiency of enforcement services.

5.     As a second step, the CEPEJ created such working group (CEPEJ GT-EXE)[10]. Members of the Working group drafted briefs treating a definite set of issues relating to the future European Quality Standards. The CEPEJ then mandated a scientific expert, M. Julien LHUILLIER (France), to carry out the synthesis of the elaborated briefs.

Objective

6.    The present document is aimed at establishing minimum standards to ensure comparability of data concerning enforcement procedures and services in Member states.

a.            A BETTER CONSULTATION OF ENFORCEMENT SYSTEMS

  1. In order to be as effective and efficient as possible, enforcement proceedings should be defined and underpinned by a clear legal framework, establishing the powers, rights and responsibilities of the parties and third parties.

8.      The target of enforcement proceedings is to enforce judicial decisions and other enforceable titles.

9.      The quality of enforcement depends on whether it is effected rapidly, effectively and at reasonable cost, thus ensuring an equivalent standard of human rights in every member state.

10.   An equivalent standard of human rights in this context means not impinging upon human dignity, by not depriving the defendant of means of mere economic subsistence and by not interfering with third parties’ rights.

11.   The quality of the enforcement proceedings should be ensured by compliance with a defined procedure and the methods recommended by this procedure. The parties must be able to resort to legal remedies to be submitted to a court within the meaning of Article 6 of the ECHR to achieve compliance with the procedure and ensure, within reasonable time, revision as to whether the decisions taken in the enforcement proceedings are correct, this without delaying the proceedings or thwarting the purpose of the enforcement.

1.    Standardized documentation

12.   The processes must be documented; the form and the content of the documents have to be standardised. Relevant provisions need to define possibilities of technical inspection of the documents, rights of the parties hereto, and a minimum period for keeping the documentation.

13.   Data collection should – as far as possible – be organized by taking into account the CEPEJ Evaluation Scheme; accordingly, answers may be provided recurrently to questions put as part of the process of evaluating European judicial systems. Attention should also be paid to the guidance in the Explanatory Note so as to ensure homogeneity of the concepts considered and measurement methods used[11].

14.   In particular, each member state should make necessary arrangements that would allow the provision of annual input to the European corpus of key data of justice as it is defined by the CEPEJ[12]

2.    Targets

15.   The consultation of enforcement systems implies above all a definition of targets and parameters, their measurement; an introduction of reporting and statistics systems based on such measurement; a controlling system based on it; an independent review system and random on-site inspection.

16.   The core competences and disciplines of enforcement agents should be identified and systems introduced so that progress can be monitored and measured. Statistics should be compiled nationally and used to measure performance and in the setting of targets.

17.   All parameters must be put in relation to each other and in relation to the individual enforcement entities. This is necessary to ensure equal quality and the comparability of enforcement entities, as well as trouble-shooting and early detection of failures.

b.            A BETTER EFFICIENCY OF ENFORCEMENT SERVICES

  1. Measurable parameters

18.   Member states should agree upon common measurable parameters of enforcement procedures. The following data should thus be collected, on a European common basis:

·         the number of pending cases,

·         the number of incoming cases,

·         the number of executed cases and that of the remaining cases at the end of the period,

·         the clearance rate,

·         the time taken to complete the enforcement

·         the success rates (recovery of debts, successful evictions, remittance of amounts outstanding, etc.)

·         the services rendered in the course of the enforcement (attempts at enforcement, time input, decrees, etc.)

·         the enforcement costs incurred and how they are covered

·         the number of complaints and remedies in relation to the number of cases settled.

·         Etc.

  1. Publication of the collected data

19.   An agreed parcel of statistical data should be collated and shared with the other 46 members of the Council of Europe so that the effectiveness of enforcement across Europe can be measured and individual systems can then move towards an agreed level of harmonisation.

20.   The performance data should be published, so users and the public at large could gauge for themselves how their enforcement agents are performing.

21.   Care should be exercised to ensure that once a problem is identified then only the problem is addressed and tackled. Regulation is expensive and adds layers of unnecessary bureaucracy and waste. A blanket approach to regulation reduces efficiency and robs enforcement agents of ambition.



[1] J. LHUILLIER, D. LHUILLIER-SOLENIK, G. NUCERA, J. PASSALACQUA, Enforcement of Court decisions in Europe, CEPEJ Studies n°8, Council of Europe, 2008, 140 p.

[2] Recommendation Rec (2003)16 on the execution of administrative and judicial decisions in the field of administrative law; Recommendation Rec (2003)17 on enforcement.

[3]  The CEPEJ GT-EXE is composed as followed: ….

[4] The CEPEJ could be tasked with setting up a working group on training on enforcement, comprising practitioners, instructors and representatives of member states or international organizations.

[5] For the purposes of the present Guidelines, enforcement costs are regarded as a sum of enforcement fees and performance fees, the payment of which is incumbent upon the parties (See Glossary).

[6]Under the auspices of the Council of Europe and possibly in conjunction with other international organisations, the CEPEJ could be tasked with identifying the data to be collected.

[7] Cf Convention on publication of documents…

[8] The Council of Europe, if possible in conjunction with the European Union, could help to this task.

[9]  J. LHUILLIER, D. LHUILLIER-SOLENIK, G. NUCERA, J. PASSALACQUA, Enforcement of Court decisions in Europe, CEPEJ Studies n°8, Council of Europe, 2008, 140 p.

[10]  The CEPEJ GT-EXE is composed as follows: ….

[11]CEPEJ, Explanatory note to the scheme for evaluating judicial systems, 2006 – 2008 Cycle, CEPEJ(2007)11

[12] CEPEJ, Scheme for evaluating judicial systems - Key judicial indicators, CEPEJ(2007)27