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Enterprise Act 2002

Sections 257 and 263 & Schedules 20 and 21: Post-discharge restrictions & Repeal of certain bankruptcy offences

740.The provisions of the Act remove some of the unnecessary restrictions that automatically apply as a result of bankruptcy (such as disqualification from holding certain offices (see further notes on sections 265, 266, 267 and 268)) and repeal two offences (section 263).

741.They also provide protection to the public and business community against the minority of bankrupts who abuse the system or whose conduct has been dishonest or otherwise culpable, either before or after bankruptcy. The Act introduces bankruptcy restrictions orders (BROs) that will have the effect of imposing restrictions on such bankrupts. BROs will run for a minimum period of two years and a maximum of fifteen years.

742.These restrictions are currently only triggered by the existence of a bankruptcy order (such as the obligation to declare your status as an undischarged bankrupt when obtaining credit of more than £250 (section 360(1) of insolvency legislation and the Insolvency Proceedings (Monetary Limits) Order 1986). By amending the discharge period, these restrictions will fall away for non-culpable bankrupts after a maximum of one year. Schedule 21 amends those provisions of the Insolvency Act 1986 that contain restrictions by adding references to BROs and interim BROs. These include section 31, which makes it an offence for a person to act as receiver or manager of a company’s property if he or she is an undischarged bankrupt. In this way, such restrictions will continue to apply to persons whose bankruptcy has been discharged but who are subject to a BRO.

743.Schedule 20 inserts a new Schedule 4A into the Insolvency Act 1986 that sets out the details regarding BROs and bankruptcy restrictions undertakings (BRUs). BROs are made by the court on the application of the Secretary of State or the Official Receiver acting on the direction of the Secretary of State (paragraph 1 of new Schedule 4A).

744.Under paragraphs 7-9 of new Schedule 4A any reference to a person against whom a BRO has been made includes a reference to a person who is the subject of a BRU (paragraph 8). This will allow the bankrupt to agree to be bound by such restrictions without the need for an application to court. The minimum and maximum duration of a BRU will be the same as a BRO.

745.Paragraph 2 of Schedule 4A sets out the kinds of conduct to which the court will have particular regard in making a BRO. Failure to keep proper accounting records, and gambling and rash and hazardous speculation are types of conduct already covered by criminal offences in sections 361 and 362 Insolvency Act 1986. Section 263 repeals those two offences. In future, matters that would have been dealt with under those two offences will, provided the misconduct is material having regard to the circumstances of the case, be dealt with under the new bankruptcy restrictions regime.

746.Paragraph 3 provides that an application for a BRO must be made within one year of the making of the bankruptcy order. It also provides that proceedings may be brought outside this time scale but only with the permission of the court. The order will come into force when it is made and will last until the date specified in the order, which will be a minimum of two years and a maximum of fifteen years (paragraph 4).

747.It is unlikely in many cases that a substantive decision will be made by the court in relation to an application for a BRO before the defendant’s discharge. Thus, there is likely to be a gap in time between the discharge of the bankrupt and the making of the BRO in those cases where a BRO is being sought. Paragraphs 5 and 6 make provision for the court to make an interim order that can be made when issuing proceedings. The court may make an interim BRO where the Official Receiver or Secretary of State has made out a prima facie case and the court is of the view that the misconduct is so serious that it is in the public interest to make such an order. The restrictions then apply on the making of the interim order, by virtue of paragraph 5(4).

748.Paragraphs 10 and 11 set out the effects of annulment of the bankruptcy on any BRO. Where a bankruptcy order is annulled under section 282(1)(a) Insolvency Act 1986 on the grounds that it ought not have been made, any BRO, either substantive or interim, that is in force will be annulled.

749.A bankruptcy order annulled because an individual voluntary arrangement has been approved by the creditors (sections 261 and 263D of the Insolvency Act 1986), or because the bankruptcy debts and expenses have been paid in full, will not affect whether a BRO or interim order remains in force. Where an application has been made, then those proceedings can be continued notwithstanding the annulment of the bankruptcy. This permits the making of BROs against culpable bankrupts who have managed to have their bankruptcy order annulled solely because they are now able, for whatever reason, to pay off their debts either in full or partially to the satisfaction of their creditors. Where a BRU has been offered, the undertaking can be finalised notwithstanding any annulment under sections 261 and 263D Insolvency Act 1986.

750.Paragraph 12 requires the Secretary of State to maintain a public register of BROs, interim BROs and BRUs. Paragraph 16 of Schedule 23 inserts a new paragraph 29A into Schedule 9 of the Insolvency Act 1986. This allows, amongst other things, Rules to be made about the inspection of the register.

751.Schedule 21 deals with the effect of BROs, interim BROs and BRUs. It amends certain provisions that make particular conduct an offence while an undischarged bankrupt and extends them to cover individuals subject to BROs, interim BROs and BRUs (incorporated by virtue of paragraphs 5(4) and 8 of new Schedule 4A of the Insolvency Act 1986 respectively). The conduct includes:

  • acting as receiver or manager of a company’s property on behalf of a debenture holder (section 31 Insolvency Act 1986);

  • obtaining credit above the prescribed limit without disclosing that you are the subject of a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order (section 360 Insolvency Act 1986);

  • trading in a name other than that under which a person was made bankrupt (section 360 Insolvency Act 1986);

  • disqualification from acting as an insolvency practitioner (section 390 Insolvency Act 1986); and

  • disqualification from acting as a company director (section 11(1) CDDA1986).

752.Section 350(3) of the Insolvency Act 1986 limits the liability of a bankrupt for offences under Part VI of that Act to acts committed prior to his discharge. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 21 qualifies that provision so that a person subject to a BRO who commits an offence extended to BROs after discharge can still be prosecuted.

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