Bailiffs and Sheriffs


Chris Parkman, MD at insolvency practitioner Purnells, explains who might be best to enforce a Court Judgment

Chris Parkman

This article is the third in a series of how best to enforce your judgment in order to reclaim the money owed to you by one of your customers.

The particular focus is on whether statistics (and common sense) show whether a County Court Bailiff or a High Court Sheriff (enforcement officer) is most effective.

So who do you choose? Both Bailiffs and Sheriffs are authorised to remove and also sell any items collected from your customer debtor if you have an unsatisfied judgment.


A County Court Bailiff works under the instruction of a form called a Warrant of Execution. County Court Bailiffs are required to write to the debtor before they attend for collection, whereas Sheriffs are not required to do.

A Bailiff is a salaried civil servant employed by Her Majesty’s Court Service to enforce judgments up to £5k. Irrespective of whether the bailiff collects in money or not, he still gets paid!


By contrast, a Sheriff is not a salaried employee like a Bailiff, and instead earns his fees only upon collection from a debtor.

In addition, a High Court Sheriff has certain powers that a bailiff does not, for example, they are authorised to force entry into commercial premises without notice to the occupier, giving them the advantage of surprise.

A High Court Sheriff works under the authority of a document known as a Writ of Fieri Facias, known as a ‘Fi Fa’, which can be issued when a judgment is transferred to the high court through submitting form N293A obtainable from

This will usually take between five and 21 days to be transferred and will require a court fee of £50 which will be repaid to you, together with all other related expenditure, and 8% interest once the collection of the debt proves successful.

But who has the higher financial incentive in reclaiming?

As you can see, the main difference between a County Court Bailiff and a High Court Sheriff comes down to their financial incentive or lack of such an incentive. This in turn may affect their motivation.

Statistical Analysis

Statistics show that collections from enforcements taken on by the High Court Sheriffs surpass the national average, which is currently quoted to be 67p in the £1 (Ministry of Justice 2009) by 40%, bringing their average success rate to 93p in the £1.

Therefore, given the choice it would perhaps be advantageous for you as a creditor to consider taking the necessary steps to transfer your existing Judgment to the High Court in order that you might then instruct a Sheriff.

For more information on effective ways of reclaiming money due to you, please read our previous articles by visiting our website ( Insolvency).

When applying for the transfer of a County Court Judgment to the High Court we always recommend that you instruct your regular solicitor.

This article first appeared in the May 2011 issue of Business Cornwall magazine