Latest county court figures show a decline in judgments against consumers for the first time in five years and a sharp rise in judgments against businesses, according to the registrar of judgments in England and Wales.

The Registry Trust said that during the first two quarters of 2018, 571,555 county court judgments (CCJs) were registered against consumers in England and Wales, down 4% compared to the first half of 2017. This bucked a five-year trend throughout which the number of judgments registered against consumers during Q1 and Q2 rose year-on-year.

The average value of a CCJ dropped 3% to £1,460, the lowest since 2008.

In May, when the registry published its statistics for the first quarter of the year, the number of judgments registered against consumers was up 2% on the first quarter of 2017 and the steady inrease in judgments against consumers looked set to continue.

Reacting to the surprise drop, Malcolm Hurlston, chair of the Registry Trust, said: ’The number and value of judgments are affected by both the financial status of borrowers and the decisions of lenders and others at what level to go for a judgment. Over recent years creditors have been pursuing lower value sums and it may be that we are seeing the end of that trend as the same time as better consumer financial health.’

Meanwhile, in the same period, there were 63,452 CCJs against businesses – up 19% on the same period in 2017.

The average value to claims also rose by 38%, but the trust said this was distorted by a single £50m judgment in the second quarter of this year. Excluding that single judgment, the value of claims rose 11%.

Hurlston said the figures can be seen as a warning to businesses to pay debts on time. ‘If they don’t, lenders may well be showing an increasing propensity to take them to court for debt and leave a lasting mark on their records,’ he added.