Thursday, 7 February 2013

Record breakers

In a case that we recently inherited from other solicitors, we encounter a novel situation.

Our client obtained judgment in this commercial claim as long ago as October 2008. For various good reasons, including regular payment of instalments over an extended period, the court has not been involved in the case since the date of judgment.

Now some enforcement action is required.  We have obtained a file from our predecessors, prepared the paperwork to put ourselves on record and written to the court to ask that the matter be transferred to the judgment debtor’s home court for enforcement.

To our surprise we get a telephone call, followed by an email, from the court to say that there is no file!

The explanation is that the court file “would have been disposed of as no action has taken place on it since October 2008”.

As most other lawyers will know, a judgment can be enforced, without the need for any further permission of the court, for up to six years.  Often that is the minimum period for which lawyers retain documents, being the standard contractual limitation period.

We don’t know exactly when this file was destroyed. Nor, it seems, do the court staff!

It has been obliterated after little more than four years on the best analysis.  Now they don’t have anything – not even digital copies.

We have been asked to send paperwork to the court so that the staff may construct a duplicate file and post that to the defendant’s court. Good job we have the data.

There was a time, not long ago, when you could expect to find years and years of records in places like court offices.  That wasn’t necessary and it needed to change. No reason why not, with scanning and digital storage capabilities.

Looks like the Court Service had the second part of the brief but not the first. Scan it, then shred it.

So just how much of this random destruction now goes on? How long before it becomes the norm to have shredded all the papers and kept no copies in any format.

Fraudsters the world over will be rubbing their hands.

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