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Meet the sheriffs.
My name's Mr Grix. My colleague and I are enforcement agents.
-It's do with a High Court order.
-They work for the High Court.
And if it says you're owed money, it's their job to go and get it.
I'm here for £6,072.18.
They can demand payment on the spot.
I'm here for the full balance.
How are you going to pay it?
Or remove assets instead.
The car will be going unless you can pay it.
You'll have a week to pay in full before it gets sold at auction.
Obstructing their work can be a criminal offence.
I wouldn't do that if I were you.
The door needs to stay open.
Every year in England and Wales,
unpaid debts totalling more than £80 million
are recovered by the sheriffs.
Coming up, a repair to Tony Grace's pride and joy wasn't up to scratch.
I felt angry that they'd not done the job properly.
But will the sheriffs be able to find enough assets
to get his money back?
This is a remapping device.
About £3,000 or £4,000 brand-new.
And the sheriffs face resistance on a factory floor.
-Can you move?
-On a commercial property,
we can force entry if we need to, sir.
-It's a court order, sir.
-But you ain't got to come in.
Enforcement agents Lawrence Grix and Kev McNally are on the road.
They're heading to Bishops Stortford in Hertfordshire
with a writ against a car garage.
There is no doubt that the motoring trade is a common cause
of disputes, and, as a result,
it provides a steady stream of work for the sheriffs.
Today's debtor though is not the normal, run-of-the-mill garage
and the vehicle at the centre of the dispute is no everyday car.
We're going to see Porsche Dynamics Ltd.
The money they owe is £1,658
and the debt is relating to some work they did.
It's actually for a gearbox gasket replacement.
The claimant in the case is heating engineer Tony Grace,
a lifelong Porsche enthusiast,
and the proud owner of a dolphin grey model.
I've always had Porsches.
I've always had a passion for them.
I like the engine in the back and the sound of them.
They're not overstated, the Porsches,
but the 996 Turbo, it's the best one out of all of them.
It's such a fast car and good fun, you know.
But even the finest engineering isn't without its flaws,
and one day, Tony discovered his beloved car
had sprung a leak in its gearbox.
I noticed patches of oil on my drive and I thought, you know,
I don't want to leave it because, obviously,
it would damage the gearbox.
So he looked around for a suitable specialist and someone he knew
recommended Porsche Dynamics Ltd.
The man said the garage could fix the problem and charged Tony £700,
but it didn't seem to make any difference.
I kept taking it back and forward.
I don't know whether they misdiagnosed it,
but every time I got it back, it was leaking.
So, in the end, I took it to a garage.
I got it up on the ramp, and when I looked,
they'd used a sealant on it and it was probably about six inches long,
and I thought, you can't do that on a car like that!
Tony's final confirmation that he hadn't got the service he'd paid for
came when the second garage made the repair he'd requested all along.
He changed the gasket within five hours.
He'd done a really good job and, touch wood,
I've never had a problem with it.
Tony got in touch with Porsche Dynamics Ltd to complain,
and initially, it sounded like they were keen
to get the matter resolved.
He said, "Oh, yeah. We'll give you your money back."
So he didn't argue at first.
But this went on for weeks and weeks.
In the end, I had no alternative but to sort of take it further.
Tony took the company to court
and won his case when they didn't offer a defence.
They haven't paid.
Now he's escalated the case to the sheriffs.
Yes. It's been over a year now, and the sheriffs are my last resort.
If they don't get nowhere, I'll just have to accept it.
Lawrence and Kev are on their way to the debtor garage
and it seems they and Tony have a lot in common.
Rather than tactics,
the top conversational topic is the finer points of Porsche.
I had one a few years ago, now.
I had it for a long time. I loved it.
Never had any drama with it.
Did everything pretty well.
It was a good car. I enjoyed it.
If I had had the money, I would have had one when I was younger.
I probably wouldn't now, to be honest.
I'm getting to the time of life where I don't want to be
getting down onto the level of a tea tray to get into my car.
The sheriffs arrive at the industrial estate
they're looking for and the debtor company isn't hard to spot.
-There it is.
-The Porsche was a bit of a giveaway.
That's how I roll.
Like a ninja.
The sheriffs head inside in search of £1,600.
-Are you the guvnor?
-No, I'm not. He's in there.
-Oh, is he?
My name's Mr Grix. My colleague and I are enforcement agents.
We're here with a High Court writ of control against Porsche Dynamics Ltd
in favour of Mr AJ Grace.
-We're ordered here today by the court to take control
of goods to the value of £1,658.02 to clear this debt.
The only way to prevent further action is to pay in full.
At this point, the man asks our cameraman to leave,
while the conversation continues inside.
Do you know about this?
The boss said he does and that he'd sent the sheriffs an e-mail,
but a cheque would have been better.
The sheriff's writ demands that they seek payment for Tony
and they plan to get it,
but while the line of Porsches outside suggests that,
on the face of it, the business is doing well,
it soon transpires that the situation might not be that simple.
Well, we were chatting to the owner in there.
He hasn't got the money to pay it. That's the problem.
The money he's actually offering to pay right now is very minimal.
The debtor says he's got plenty of work but cash flow's a problem
and so he can only raise £400,
with the remainder to be paid over a period of weeks.
But to go on a payment arrangement,
Lawrence wants at least half the debt cleared today,
and he'd need to take control of goods on the premises as security,
and that's where there's a problem.
It seems Porsche Dynamics Ltd has another unpaid debt,
and a different enforcement agent has already called
and had first dibs on everything here.
They've actually listed and got an inventory of goods
they've taken down into their possession.
So, we've got to find other assets that they haven't taken control of.
So, while the boss calls around to see if he can raise any more money,
the sheriffs are on a treasure hunt for any assets that are left.
Predictably, the cars are all owned by customers,
so Lawrence and Kev are focusing on the garage equipment.
45 minutes later, they are out the door with goods in hand.
This is a remapping device,
so you can remap the engine's ECU to give better performance,
I would guess about £3,000 or £4,000, brand-new.
This is a snap-on bit of diagnostic kit,
and it basically communicates with
the car's computer system to read faults, reset faults.
Brand-new, this would probably be £3,000 or £4,000,
but again, at auction, you'd probably get half of that.
It may not be the Crown Jewels,
but it should raise enough at auction
to cover Porsche Dynamics' debt.
That's if the man doesn't come up with the money first
and within seven days.
I think he'll potentially buy it back.
I think he'll try and get the money together to buy it back
before it gets sold. Hopefully.
In fact, the boss never did make any payment at all
and his equipment has been listed for auction.
The claimant, Tony Grace, should get his money back any day now
and is delighted to see the matter finally coming to an end.
Yeah. Good news. Probably, with the money,
I'll probably end up spending it on the dog.
She's got a bad foot.
It's nice to have it come to an end and put it to bed,
and then forget about it and move on.
Life's for living.
Porsche Dynamics Ltd told us that...
Using the county courts to try to recover money you're owed
One and a half million money claims are made every year
in England and Wales, involving anything from faulty goods,
or poor workmanship, to unpaid invoices.
Claims can be filed by post or online for a small fee.
Both parties in the case will be asked to submit evidence
and you may have to attend a court hearing.
If you're successful, a County Court Judgment, or CCJ,
will be issued against the debtor, and if they still don't pay,
that's when you call the sheriffs.
When the sheriffs turn up at a debtor's premises demanding money
unsurprisingly it doesn't always go down well.
Many debtors don't want to pay the original court judgment
against them, let alone the extra fees incurred
by High Court enforcement.
The sheriffs are used to debtors being angry or uncooperative.
In the North West, enforcement agent Alan Pennington
is about to meet a debtor who's come up with an original way of making their point.
We're off to Oldham today to Abbey Coaches.
I gather it is to do with an employment tribunal case.
The sheriffs haven't been given any details.
All Alan knows is that Abbey Coaches Darwen Limited
was successfully taken to an employment tribunal by a worker.
After failing to pay the award, made two months ago,
they now owe £1,865 including costs.
But, as Alan reaches the address he's been given,
he can't see any sign of the company.
I can't even see a coach anywhere.
Although there is another business that catches his eye.
Er, what's that there?
Minibus hire and so on.
I'll go and ask them.
It's possible the debtor's trading under more than one name
and it sounds like a similar business,
so Alan tries his luck.
I've got a High Court writ for Abbey Coaches.
It seems Alan is in the right place, after all.
Abbey Coaches Darwen Limited is based here.
S&S Travel Services Limited is another company run by the same directors.
But there seems to be some confusion over the debt itself.
All right, that won't make any difference.
No, it's employment tribunal,
it's nothing to do with a vehicle.
As Alan has a High Court writ,
it makes little difference what the insurance company may or may not
be trying to do.
Either way, the writ needs paying today.
And when the staff call their insurance company
they seem to agree.
The insurance company has told them to pay
because the insurance company haven't dealt with
the issue to start with.
They will claim it back off the insurance company, I believe.
But, if it comes to it, Alan thinks he might have found the leverage he needs.
There's no assets in the property because it's S&S Travel's
assets which they've already shown me.
But I do believe across the way there, there are
there are some coaches that belong to Abbey but I don't think
it's going to come to the situation where we take a coach away.
It looks like he's right
as one of the staff members soon comes asking for clarification.
How much again, was it?
The man says they're going to get the money from the bank.
And, indeed, they do.
But when they come back there's a catch.
Rather than the wodge of banknotes Alan is used to,
they've brought large sacks full of coins.
-Where do you want it?
-Put it in the boot.
Alan will have to count them all.
Luckily, all the bags are all standard sizes
and it doesn't take long
to add it all up
and realise that it's not quite the full amount.
£1,800, so I'll just go and speak to the man.
OK, £65.36 short.
The staff produce the outstanding money and Alan's work is done.
As promised, £1,800 in coins,
£65.40 pence in notes.
Thank you to the wonderful uncooperative gentleman
who's paid in full today
and then told me to do one in the shop.
So I've done one, I'm going.
Alan isn't bothered by the man's insults.
All that matters is he's been paid in full.
The claimant who won his employment tribunal has now got the money he was owed.
It's mid-morning and Tommy and Craig are on the outskirts
They're looking for a man who runs a sandwich business
and who owes thousands of pounds to a former worker.
We're off to go and see Mr Trevor Johnson.
He trades as TJ's Sandwiches.
This one's an employment tribunal case,
so it's clearly a dispute between employer and employee.
The claimant says she'd worked for Mr Johnson for ten years
before he made her redundant without notice.
He also made unauthorised deductions from her wages
and owes her holiday pay.
Mr Johnson didn't attend the hearing
and the tribunal ruled against him by default.
He still hasn't paid and owes £4,036.
As the address on the writ appears to be
for some kind of industrial unit, rather than Mr Johnson's home address,
the sheriffs are hopeful of finding suitable assets.
I think this is actually where they prep and make the sandwiches,
so we'll be looking for the prep tables
and actual machinery that may make the sandwiches,
and refrigerated vehicles is always a good one in places like this,
we'll be looking for them.
Hopefully, we'll get the employee the money
that the court has said that she deserves.
But all this talk of sandwiches is making Tommy hungry.
Oh, I do like a good sandwich, two slices of granary bread, no butter,
some Mexican-style chicken,
some green and black olives with some salsa,
a bit of avocado and some crispy bacon.
That's a lovely sandwich.
It's also unlikely to be on offer today,
but he will happily settle for payment instead.
The sheriffs reach their destination and head in in search of Mr Johnson.
-Is Mr Johnson about?
Can he be contacted at all?
Has anybody got his number?
No? Who's in charge whilst he's not here?
So, there's no-one in charge and no-one can contact the boss.
Craig is sceptical.
Nobody has got his telephone number at all?
Who would you phone in an emergency?
You just deal with it yourselves?
I'll explain who I am.
My name is Mr Wild and we are High Court enforcement agents.
We are here today to execute a court order, a High Court writ of control.
So we need to get in contact with Mr Johnson.
As a matter of urgency.
But just then a man emerges from the back.
Hello, sir. Are you Mr Johnson?
Hello, Mr Johnson.
My name's Mr Wild.
It seems Mr Johnson was here all along.
And he now excuses himself momentarily to switch off a machine.
When Mr Johnson returns, he asks our cameraman to leave.
Inside, Tommy and Craig explain they're here on behalf
of his former employee and their writ empowers them
to collect just over £4,000.
Otherwise, they'll have to remove goods to cover the value instead.
Thankfully, Mr Johnson knows all about the debt
and the sheriffs are spared the task of working out
whether any of the vehicles outside belong to him
or weighing up the auction value of a whole lot of lettuce
and bread rolls.
He agrees to pay, and half an hour later, Tommy and Craig are leaving,
slightly surprised about how straightforward it was
considering the reception they got when they arrived.
We've gained peaceable access,
met the workers who initially said that our guy wasn't there.
A bit like the Scarlet Pimpernel, he appeared from the back.
His wife was actually in the office at the front of the building,
so explained the situation and ultimately we got paid in full.
Normally, that would be the end of the matter, but in this case,
today's enforcement is only half the story.
The debt itself was an employment tribunal case,
it appears to be one of two employees.
He's expecting another one to come through quite quickly,
so Tommy explained to him if he can get that resolved before we turn up
it's going to be more financially viable for him to do that.
Following the sheriffs' visit,
Mr Johnson also paid the second tribunal award,
meaning that both of his former employees have now got the money
the employment tribunal said they were owed.
Back in the south-east,
Lawrence and Kev are also looking for a businessmen with a debt to pay.
But this is a very different kind of business
and an unusual case for them.
We are in Epsom in Surrey today.
We are going to see Kieran Midwinter,
trading as Epsom Rocks Tanning.
So, as you probably can guess, it's a tanning salon.
It's for sale of sunbed tubes.
They didn't pay for them.
Mr Midwinter has been taken to court by the supplier of the sunbed tubes.
He didn't defend the case and judgment has been made by default.
He now owes £3,373.
Neither Lawrence nor Kev are especially familiar
with what goes on in a tanning salon.
Not really into sunbeds, to be honest.
I like going on holiday and getting a bit of tan.
I know Lawrence is a fan of that, as well.
Yeah, because there's quite a lot of me to get tanned, really.
I'm pretty sure I remember him telling me he's got yellow Speedos,
I think. I think it is. Is that right?
No, I haven't got any budgie smugglers.
But a holiday seems a million miles away
as they slog through the Epsom traffic.
Yeah, go on.
Lawrence does manage to bag what he thinks is a good spot.
Only to be disappointed.
Permit holders only.
-I'll stay here if you want. Just give us a shout if you need us.
-Yeah. All right, mate.
Let me know if them beauty technicians give you any grief.
Right, if they jump me and, like, pin me to the floor, you mean?
Yeah, them sunbed assistants.
So Lawrence heads to the debtors on foot,
while Kev does the decent thing and minds the van.
The sheriffs are banking on the tanning salon
being a fairly unthreatening environment.
They obviously hadn't factored in the soundtrack.
LOUD DANCE MUSIC
Hello, I'm looking for Kieran Midwinter.
Would that be yourself, sir?
It is indeed the man named on the High Court writ.
Lawrence tells him he's got an unpaid debt
and that's he's here to collect.
MUSIC VOLUME DECREASES
That's better. I'm here today to take control of goods
to the value of £3,373.41.
The only way to prevent further action is to pay in full, sir.
So that's what the debt is.
While they do, our cameraman has to step outside.
Mr Midwinter tells Lawrence he didn't know about the debt,
but he doesn't dispute it and wants to pay,
only he doesn't have the money.
The gentleman didn't appear to know anything about it.
He knew there was an original small debt
but he didn't realise it had gone to a debt collection company, etc, etc.
He hasn't been running the salon himself for quite a while.
He's only just gone back in there,
so it looks like any of the post that went there
with regards to this he didn't actually get.
Whether the staff threw it away or whatever, I don't know.
Lawrence has explained to Mr Midwinter
that if he doesn't come up with the money
then he'll remove his sunbeds,
and soon the pair agree to a creative solution
to the problem, as a slightly bemused Kev
explains from the comfort of the van.
OK, so I got an update from Lawrence.
The debtor, he has sold his car recently.
The money for that is actually at another premises
which is about 20 miles from here.
That would cover the debt that we're after.
20 miles from here, maybe,
but just a few miles from the sheriffs' office
and their colleague Tommy.
It's a bit long-winded and round the houses
but hopefully Tommy can go and collect this money,
give us a call that he's collected it
and we can be off from here without removing goods.
Tommy may not be used to playing the role of Lawrence's courier,
but his help will save the sheriffs hours of time
and possibly get their client paid quicker.
Half an hour later, his efforts have paid off
and Lawrence explains his tactics.
He's paid £2,810 off the debt today
and I've got a controlled goods agreement in place
and he's got to pay just under £600 in two weeks' time
to clear the debt, so I'm quite happy with that.
Thank you, Tommy.
Today, enforcement agents Tommy and Craig
have been working in the Midlands, and in the middle of the afternoon,
their third call of the day leads them into the city.
We are in the centre of Birmingham more or less today,
off to a limited company called Zebra Worldwide Machinery Ltd.
It's run by a Simon Graham Wintermore.
We believe it's in relation to a machine that he supplied.
The claimant is a customer who wasn't happy with a lathe he bought.
He took the matter to court and won a judgment against the company,
but he didn't receive his money.
Two months down the line,
the sheriffs are hoping to collect £5,834.
But as they approach, it doesn't look promising.
It's all locked up, mate.
That doesn't look good, does it?
The sheriffs park up and ring the bell.
Big, old place, isn't it?
It's a huge unit, but the shutters are down
and there's no sight or sound of heavy machinery.
I can't hear any noise.
Just when they're beginning to suspect this visit is a lost cause,
the door opens.
Hello, sir. Trying to get in contact with Mr Simon Graham Wintermore.
My name's Mr Wilde, I'm a High Court enforcement agent.
OK, so I need to leave the door open.
Yes, I have to. No, sir.
It's a commercial property. We can force entry if we need to.
-Yes, we have.
-We've got a court order to come in.
Are you Mr Wintermore?
I'll wait here.
The door needs to stay open, we need to speak to him.
Otherwise, we'll have to force entry and get the police.
No way, sir.
We'll stay here until he comes down.
The last thing the sheriffs want is to get locked out.
Although they could legally force entry if they needed to,
it's a situation they'd rather avoid.
We weren't going to let the door be shut on us.
We'll be polite to these people as much as we can,
but we are here with the authority of the courts to do our job.
For now, they are happy to wait at the entrance
where they've got a decent view of the assets.
This lot, they are lathes, aren't they?
They are pillar drills.
That looks like a guillotine cutter.
That's a scrubber, a floor polisher thing.
The machines might be a challenge to remove,
but they definitely have value.
Meanwhile, a man emerges from the office upstairs.
What do you think? Is that the same guy?
No, it's a different guy.
-Can I help you? Hold on, that's a camera crew.
It is indeed the company boss,
but on spotting our camera he is less than pleased.
We are asked to leave and it's left to Tommy and Craig inside
to explain that it's time for Zebra to pay its debts.
The answer isn't exactly what they expected.
The boss says he's already paid and produces proof
of a recent bank transfer.
On closer inspection, it appears he's made a payment
direct to the claimant's solicitor,
but it's only for the amount owed
before the case was transferred to the High Court.
The director is not happy at all because he's saying
the payment he made, he thought it was going to resolve the case.
Because he didn't pay to begin with,
Mr Wintermore now owes another £868.
He's not happy.
Nevertheless, he reaches for his credit card,
and the sheriffs are soon on their way,
satisfied they have carried out the Court's wishes.
Got a bit fruity on the door with one of the employees.
We managed to put the foot in the door, secured the access.
The director produced evidence that he's paid direct
to the claimant's legal representation, just under £5,000.
So we've checked that out, that's come off the bill
leaving a short balance outstanding
which we have just collected in full.
It didn't come to listing down the company's goods,
but aside from the valuable machines they first saw,
there was one asset inside that made quite an impression.
Oh, yeah, the zebra head.
There was a zebra head mounted in his office.
But for now, the boss's machines and taxidermy are safe.
The sheriffs are leaving with payment in full
and the claimant has got their money back.
Mr Wintermore told us he did offer the claimant who bought the lathe
an alternative machine and says he wasn't aware he owed any fees
at the time he made the payment.