Drop in debt judgments in Northern Ireland

The number and total value of small claims judgments in Northern Ireland dropped in 2018 compared to the previous year, but still show a marked increase on 2016’s record lows.

There were 8,021 small claims judgments in 2018, eight percent fewer than in the previous year. The total value dropped by 13 percent to £17.1million, with the average value decreasing by five percent to 2,133 and the median of £847 staying close to the 2017 level. However, the figures are still far from a return to 2016’s record low of 7,349 claims at a total value of £14million (increasing by nine percent and 22 percent respectively).

The total number of High Court judgments dropped by 51 percent to 54 in 2018. The total value of judgments fell by 73 percent to £4.5million a record annual low, with the average value decreasing by 44 percent to £82,381. The median, at £52,256, dropped only eight percent from the 2017 level.

The total value of judgments last year in all courts in Northern Ireland was £21.6million compared with £36million in 2017, a fall of 40 percent.

Registry Trust is the non-profit organisation which collects judgment information throughout the British Isles and Ireland. In Northern Ireland it collects information on defaults and small claims judgments, and High Court judgments. A judgment is a warning that debt may be out of control.

During 2018, three percent of judgments were marked as satisfied. This contrasts with 15 percent in England and Wales, where satisfaction rates are generally higher owing to differences between legal systems.

Trust deputy chairman Mick McAteer said: “Northern Ireland saw a welcome fall in the number and value of judgments in 2018. It will be worth monitoring to see if judgment levels return to the lows seen in 2016.”

Registry Trust received 30,541 requests to search the register for Northern Ireland online at www.trustonline.org.uk during 2018. TrustOnline allows anyone to search for judgments and similar information registered against consumers and businesses in any jurisdiction across the British Isles and Ireland. “We have upgraded TrustOnline to make it mobile friendly,” said Mr McAteer. “It is now cheap, quick and efficient to enquire about whoever you transact with. If there’s a judgment on their record, think twice.”


● Defaults and small claims 2018 (compared with 2017)
o Total number: 8,021 (down eight percent)
o Total value: £17.1m (down 13 percent)
o Average: £2,133 (down five percent)
o Median: £847 (no change)

● High Court judgments 2018 (compared with 2017)
o Total number: 54 (down 51 percent) [Lowest annual figure on record]
o Total value: £4.5m (down 73 percent) [Lowest annual figure on record]
o Average: £82,381 (down 44 percent) [Lowest annual figure on record]
o Median: £52,256 (down eight percent)