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Debt picture clearer in 2011

By CreditMan Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The picture of debt in Northern Ireland is now clearer thanks to two initiatives by Registry Trust, the non-profit organisation that collects judgment information in Northern Ireland and other jurisdictions in the British Isles.

Last year the Trust made high court judgment information publically available in Northern Ireland for the first time, with historic cases available dating back to April 2008. This was added to the default and small claims information which was already provided.

Judgment information from the Trust is used as an indicator of creditworthiness by lenders and incorporated in the reports of credit reference agencies. Through the website the information is made directly available to the public. In September the Trust more than halved the cost of searching the registers.

As a result, more people than ever before checked with past judgment records held by the Trust. A record 11,103 searches of the register for Northern Ireland were conducted last year. This total is 51.5 percent higher than the previous record of 7,331 searches set in 2010. The rapid growth of search requests – from just 920 searches in 2007 – is indicative of a dramatic upturn in interest in debt matters.

Registry Trust is the only public source of information about judgments against other people and businesses and is popular as a pre-transaction check.

Registry Trust’s annual statistics show that businesses and consumers faced default and small claims debts worth £22.7m in 2011. This figure is 11.8 percent lower than the previous year’s total of £25.7m.

This can be attributed to a smaller number of cases being adjudicated in court – falling from 11,220 in 2010 to 9,496 in 2011 – a decrease of 15.4 percent.

Announcing the statistics, Malcolm Hurlston, Registry Trust chairman said: “Our non-profit model means that we have no shareholders to pay, so where we are able to make savings we can pass them on directly to our customers.

“If lower prices encourage more people to check debt histories to help them weigh up creditworthiness, then we are achieving our aim of acting in the public interest.”