Section 206 – Arrestment in execution
669.Section 206 inserts new Part 3A into the 1987 Act (after section 73). This new Part contains 18 new sections dealing with the diligence of arrestment in execution and the related action of furthcoming.
670.Arrestment is a diligence which allows a creditor to attach a debtor’s moveable property, such as goods or funds (for example, funds held in bank accounts). Arrestment can be used only where these assets are owned by the debtor but are in the possession of a third party. The third party is known as the “arrestee” and is often, in the case of funds, a bank or financial institution. If the assets are in the possession of the debtor rather than a third party then the diligence of attachment (or, in the case of money, money attachment) may be available.
671.Arrestment simply attaches the assets held by an arrestee; it does not transfer ownership of the assets to the creditor. To complete the diligence and have the assets handed over or sold, the creditor must raise an action of furthcoming. In many cases, the formal action of furthcoming is not necessary as the debtor completes a voluntary mandate permitting the arrestee to hand over the assets to the creditor in satisfaction of the debt.
672.The following sections make modifications to certain aspects of the law of arrestment. Those aspects of the law which are unchanged by this Act remain subject to the rules of common law.
New section 73A – Arrestment and action of furthcoming to proceed only on decree or document of debt
673.Section 73A(1) provides that arrestment is permitted only to enforce a court decree (including a summary warrant) or a registered document of debt where the warrant or extract of the decree or document authorises arrestment. “Decree” and “document of debt” are defined in subsection (4). The Scottish Ministers have the power to add, remove or vary these definitions by order made by statutory instrument (subsection (5)). The exercise of this power is subject to negative resolution procedure.
674.Where, however, the decree is a summary warrant, arrestment can be executed only if the debtor has been charged to pay the debt and the period of the charge (14 days, or 28 days if the debtor is outside the UK or the debtor’s whereabouts are unknown) expires without the debt being paid (subsection (2)). In any other case, no prior charge is required before arrestment may be executed. Any existing rule of law relating to the types of decrees or documents on which arrestment can proceed is abolished if the rule is inconsistent with these provisions (subsection (3)).
New section 73B – Schedule of arrestment to be in prescribed form
675.This section enables the Scottish Ministers to prescribe the form of schedule of arrestment to be used. This is only required in an arrestment which has not started out as an arrestment on the dependence of a court action. This power is exercisable by regulations subject to negative resolution procedure.
New section 73C – Arrestment on the dependence followed by decree
676.Where a creditor obtains a final decree in the creditor’s favour at the conclusion of a court case and the creditor had arrested property of the debtor on the dependence of the action then, under common law, the arrestment on the dependence automatically becomes an arrestment in execution of the final decree. In these circumstances, section 73C provides that the creditor will be required to serve a copy of the final decree, in the form prescribed in rules of court, on the arrestee. This gives the arrestee notice that the arrestment on the dependence has become an arrestment in execution and may be followed by an action of furthcoming, a voluntary mandate to release the assets held or by the automatic release of funds under new section 73J (see paragraphs 696 to 699 below).
New section 73D – Debt advice and information
677.Section 73D imposes a duty on a creditor to provide a debtor who is an individual with a copy of the debt advice and information package during a 48-hour period beginning with the service of either a copy of the final decree in favour of the creditor, following an action on the dependence of which the creditor has executed an arrestment, or a schedule of arrestment in a standard arrestment in execution. If the creditor fails to provide the debt advice and information package, the arrestment shall be invalid. The meaning of “debt advice and information package” in the 1987 Act is set out in section 47(4) (inserted by section 201(1) of this Act), as read with section 106 (as amended by paragraph 16(14) of schedule 5 of this Act).
New section 73E – Funds attached
678.New section 73E provides rules to limit the sums that may be attached by an arrestment in execution which secures sums held by the arrestee (for example, a credit balance in a bank account in the debtor’s name).
679.This section changes the common law for most arrestments under which the words “more or less” in the arrestment schedule of a validly executed arrestment in execution attach the whole of the debtor’s moveable property in the possession of the arrestee rather than merely enough property to cover the value of the debt due by the debtor to the arresting creditor. That rule operates regardless of the size of the actual debt due.
680.Subsection (1) sets out the circumstances in which the rules in this section apply. For this section to apply to arrestment in execution of a decree there must not have been an arrestment on the dependence of the action in which the decree is granted. The sum attached in those cases is determined at the point at which the arrestment on the dependence is granted (see section 15H of the 1987 Act inserted by section 169 of this Act). Paragraph (b) clarifies that this section applies to an arrestment only to the extent that the arrestee holds funds due to the debtor which are of an ascertainable amount at the time the arrestment is executed. Also, it applies where the arrestee holds the debtor’s funds, even where the arrestee also holds other moveable property belonging to the debtor.
681.Debts can be classified as “pure”, “future” or “contingent”. A pure debt is one which is currently due and can be demanded immediately. For example, the obligation of a bank to an account holder in respect of sums due on a current account. Future debts are an obligation to pay a debt on a certain future date or on the occurrence of an event which must occur. For instance, an obligation to pay a building contractor on completion of a 12 month contract. A contingent debt is a debt which depends on the occurrence of an uncertain future event. For example, the right of an insured car owner to be indemnified by an insurer against a third party claim for damage to a vehicle in a car accident, caused by the insured where the third party has not yet raised a court action for damages, is a contingent debt.
682.Under common law, all of these types of debt are arrestable. However, contingent debts are arrestable only where the right to the debt has vested in the common debtor. It is arrestable for what it may ultimately prove to be worth. Accordingly, pure debts are of an ascertainable amount, future debts may be of an ascertainable amount (although some may not be if they increase, say, in accordance with rising interest rates). Contingent debts, on the other hand, are unascertainable as there is no guarantee that the contingency will be purified.
683.This section, in dealing only with debts to the extent that they are ascertainable, deals only with pure debts and any future debts of an ascertainable amount. For future debts which are not of an ascertainable amount and all contingent debts, the common law applies. That means, rather than the formula set out in subsection (2) applying, because the debt is unascertainable, a sum will be arrested under common law “more or less” for the amount of the debt owed, plus any expenses.
684.For ascertainable debts, subsection (2) provides that the funds attached by the arrestment will be the lesser of—
the sum held by the arrestee on the debtor’s behalf (referred to as the debt due to the debtor by the arrestee because a sum of money held, for example, by a bank in a person’s account is in fact a debt owed by the bank to the person for the balance in the account); or
the sum arrived at by the formula set out in paragraph (b). The formula requires adding up the amount of the principal sum claimed in the decree or document, any expenses chargeable against the debtor under the decree or document, the expenses of carrying out the arrestment, interest on the principal sum up to and including the date of the arrestment plus interest that may accrue in the year following that and interest on the expenses of the arrestment itself plus an amount to be specified by the Scottish Ministers in regulations which approximates to the average expenses chargeable against a debtor in an action of furthcoming.
685.If the amount held by the arrestee is not enough to cover the sum arrived at under the subsection (2)(b) formula and the arrestee also holds other moveable property belonging to the debtor, subsection (4) provides that the arrestment will attach all the moveable property of the debtor held by the arrestee in addition to any funds due to the debtor and held by the arrestee. Subsection (5) provides that in any other case (in other words, where the amount of money held by the arrestee is enough to cover the amount arrived at in the subsection (2)(b) formula) the arrestment will not attach any other moveable property and attaches only the amount of money arrived at under subsection (2).
686.Subsection (6) ensures that the sum attached under section 73E(2) will only include ascertainable debts and that, in this situation, the creditor cannot unnecessarily attach additional funds relating to unascertainable debts under common law. Where the sum attached in the hands of the arrestee is the amount due in respect of the debt, there is no need to allow attachment of additional funds, otherwise the creditor would attach funds unnecessarily to the detriment of the debtor. There may, however, be circumstances where the arrestee owes unascertainable debts to the common debtor which the creditor ought to have the right to arrest in addition to ascertainable debts to make up the amount of the debt, interest and expenses owed to the creditor. Subsection (6) does not prevent an additional amount of unascertainable debts being attached under common law in those circumstances.
687.Note that any amount of money attached by this section may be reduced by the provisions of new section 73F.
New section 73F – Protection of minimum balance in certain bank accounts
688.New section 73F protects debtors by providing that a minimum level of funds within bank and other accounts cannot be attached by an arrestment.
689.Section 73F applies to both arrestments in execution and arrestments on the dependence providing the arrestment attaches funds of a debtor held by a bank or similar financial institution. It applies only if the debtor is an individual (not a company, partnership or other body or organisation) and the account in question is not a trading account and is not in the name of a company, partnership or other association (subsections (1) and (2)).
690.Subsections (3) and (4) have the effect of preventing the attachment of an amount below the amount which, in an earnings arrestment, cannot be arrested when a person is paid monthly. At the time of the passing of this Act, this amount was set at £370 by the Diligence Against Earnings (Variation) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (S.S.I. 2006/116). This amount can, however, be varied by the Scottish Ministers under the power conferred upon them in section 49(7)(a) of the 1987 Act (the functions of the Lord Advocate were transferred to the Secretary of State (by virtue of the Transfer of Functions (Lord Advocate and Secretary of State) Order 1999 (S.I. 1999/678) and to the Scottish Ministers by virtue of section 53 of the Scotland Act 1998). So, where the sum held by the arrestee is more than that amount, only the funds over that amount can be attached by an arrestment. If the sum in the debtor’s account is less than that amount, no funds are attached.
691.Subsection (5) defines what is meant by “bank or other financial institution”.
692.Under subsection (6), the Scottish Ministers may modify the types of account or vary any descriptions of the types of account that section 73F applies to. Also the definition of “bank or other financial institution” may be modified by the Scottish Ministers to add or remove types of financial institution or vary any of the descriptions of the types of institution. These powers are exercisable by regulations subject to the negative resolution procedure.
New section 73G – Arrestee’s duty of disclosure
693.New section 73G places a duty on arrestees to disclose to an arresting creditor the existence of and the value of assets attached by an arrestment. Where nothing is arrested, there is no requirement for the arrestee to provide a “nil” return. The disclosure has to be submitted in the prescribed form within 3 weeks of the date on which the schedule of arrestment is served on the arrestee. A copy of the disclosure must be sent to the debtor and to any person known to the arrestee who owns or claims to own (in common or wholly) the attached property, or to whom attached funds are, or are claimed to be, due (in common or wholly).
New section 73H – Failure to disclose information
694.Section 73H(1) provides that, where an arrestee fails to make a disclosure under section 73G, the sheriff may, on the application of the creditor, order the arrestee to pay the creditor the lesser of either the sum due by the debtor to the creditor or the amount which represents the minimum protected balance in bank accounts which are subject to an arrestment (at the time of the passing of this Act, £370).
695.Subsection (2) provides that in the case of an arrestment on the dependence of an action, the sanction in subsection (1) cannot be applied until the creditor has served a copy of the final decree in the action (see section 73C). The failure to disclose information can be treated as a contempt of court in arrestment on the dependence cases. Contempt of court is punishable by any of, or a combination of, admonition, fine and (in extreme cases) imprisonment or detention.
696.Where the arrestee pays over a sum ordered under subsection (1) following a failure to disclose information, subsection (3) provides that the amount paid reduces the debt owed by the debtor to the creditor by that amount and the arrestee is not allowed to recover that amount from the debtor.
697.Subsection (4) gives an arrestee a right of appeal against an order to pay money to the creditor following a failure to disclose information. The appeal must be made to the sheriff principal within 2 weeks of the date of the order and can only be on a point of law. There is no further right of appeal.
New section 73J – Automatic release of arrested funds
698.New section 73J provides for a procedure by which a creditor can obtain arrested funds automatically after the expiry of defined period. Where funds are released under this procedure there is no need for an action of furthcoming or for the debtor to grant a mandate to release funds.
699.Subsection (1) states that the automatic release of funds can apply only when the arrestment is an arrestment in execution (even if it originally was an arrestment on the dependence) and it attaches funds held by the arrestee and owing to the debtor.
700.The automatic release of funds under this section is to take place at the end of the period of 14 weeks starting on the date of the service of the schedule of arrestment or (if the arrestment was originally executed on the dependence) the date of service of the copy of the final decree. The arrestee can release the funds before the automatic release period has expired if those with an interest in the attached funds authorise the arrestee to do so, by way of a mandate. Automatic release may be prevented by any of the events mentioned in new section 73L(1).
701.Subsection (4) makes it clear that any references in this section and in sections 73K to 73P (which make provision related to automatic release of funds) to funds or sums due do not include references to funds or sums due in respect of future or contingent debts. As mentioned above at paragraphs 681681 and 682682, future and contingent debts are arrestable. (Ascertainable future debts being arrestable according to the formula set out in section 73E and unascertainable future and contingent debts being arrestable at common law). Accordingly, any arrestment of funds or sums due in respect of future or contingent debts cannot be completed by automatic release. Instead an alternative means of realising the arrestment such as a voluntary mandate or action of furthcoming must be pursued.
New section 73K – Sum released under section 73J(2)
702.New section 73K states how to calculate the amount which is to be released under the automatic release procedure. The sum to be released must be the lowest of—
the sum attached by the arrestment (which is calculated under section 73E and may be limited by the protected minimum balance provisions in section 73F);
the amount the arrestee holds on behalf of the debtor (excluding any funds or sums relating to future or contingent debts); or
the sum calculated under a formula similar to that set out in section 73E(2)(b) but without any amount representing the average costs of an action of furthcoming (which is not needed if the funds are released) and limiting the interest charged to interest up to the date of release (rather than 1 year’s interest as under section 73E(2)(b)).
New section 73L – Circumstances preventing automatic release
703.Section 73L(1) sets out the circumstances which prevent an arrestee automatically releasing funds under section 73J. The circumstances are—
that the arrestee or debtor or any other person to whom funds are due solely or in common with the debtor applies, by notice of objection under section 73M, to the sheriff;
the debtor makes a hardship application for release of funds or property under section 73Q(2);
an action of multiplepoinding is raised (which is an action where there are competing claims as to ownership of attached property held by an arrestee, for example more than one creditor of the debtor attempts to arrest the funds); or
the arrestment is recalled or restricted or otherwise ceases to have effect. An arrestment may be recalled where, for example, the debt in relation to which it has been effected is paid. Recall or restriction can also occur by order of the sheriff where a time to pay order is applied for under Part I of the 1987 Act.