Navigating the roadmap of foreign judgments

In law, the enforcement of foreign judgments is the recognition and enforcement in one jurisdiction of judgments rendered in another.

This may come about when someone is situated or has assets outside the jurisdiction in which a judgment against them was obtained.

Enforcing foreign judgments can be a complex process. Here we attempt to outline the stages involved and the geographical implications.

The first stage in the process is the Recognition Phase – when a court of one country accepts the judicial decision made by another. They will then recognise the foreign judgment as enforceable or replicate the provisions of the foreign order.

The second stage, the Enforcement Stage, involves the actual enforcement of the order obtained against assets in the relevant jurisdiction. How this works in NI
The Enforcement of Judgments Office in NI can enforce monetary judgments made by courts outside NI under Article 4 of the Judgments Enforcement (NI) Order 1981 including courts in England, Wales, Scotland, Republic of Ireland and in the European Union.

Following Brexit, the rules regarding the enforceability of EU judgments in NI have changed.

Since the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement failed to consider the mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments, from 2021, the Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in NI has been governed by either the 2005 Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements (“Hague Convention”) or local common law rules on jurisdiction, depending on circumstances.

Enforcing UK Judgments in NI
UK judgments can be enforced in NI under the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982. The party seeking to enforce the judgment will complete a Certificate of Money provision, obtained from the court office which granted the original judgment.

Once the Certificate is stamped, it must be filed with the High Court in Belfast for registration. The original certificate and a certified copy of the Certificate are then filed with the court. No court fee is payable to the court office for registration of a Certificate of Money provision. The Certificate of Money provision must be registered within 6 months in NI from the date of issue by the initial court.Enforcing NI Judgments in England and Wales
The process for enforcing a judgment obtained in NI in England and Wales is outlined in Rules 74.14-74.18 of the Civil Procedure Rules and the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 under sections 18, 19 and Schedules 6 and 7.

The party seeking to enforce must apply for a sealed certificate from the originating court, outlining the judgment debt due, together with a notarised affidavit and application fee.

Once this is received, the creditor must then register the judgment with the High Court of England and Wales within six months of the date of issue of the certificate as per Rule 74.15(2).

International Judgments and Reciprocal Agreements
Reciprocal agreements can be created under the Administration of Justice Act 1920 and Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1933 between the UK and the applicable non-EU country.

The 1920 Act offers enforceability to countries with historic links to Britain, including numerous Caribbean Islands, Malaysia, New Zealand and many other UK Overseas Territories. The 1933 Act offers similar reciprocal treatment in their courts of UK and NI cases but relates to cases of non-penal monetary judgments. Registration of these judgments are made by way of an ex-parte application to the High Court before registration can be made.

An application for registration must be made within 12 months of the date of the judgment under the 1920 Act, whereas judgments obtained in 1933 Act countries must be made within six years of the date of the judgment.

International Judgments without a Reciprocal Agreement
For countries outside the UK and EU, where there is no reciprocal agreement in place between the UK/NI and the applicable country, judgments cannot be directly enforced in NI. The party seeking enforcement must instead issue new proceedings by way of Summary Judgment.

Millar McCall Wylie provides support and guidance to clients throughout complex processes such as this. We welcome the opportunity to discuss and advise on specific requirements with confidentiality and clarity.