What Happens if you Don’t Comply with a Court Order in the UK?


The consequences of non-compliance with a UK court order can be severe both in terms of physical punishment and the award of legal costs against the person breaching the order. This is why it is really important to understand the details behind what can go wrong if you are asking yourself the question: What happens if you don’t comply with a court order in the UK? 


This article will explain outline this topic and the consequences related to not complying with a court order in the UK. For more information and for advice, please do not hesitate to contact us directly and outline your case, and one of our expert solicitors in London will get back to you very quickly.  

Examples of court order categories

There are categories of court orders. For example, in civil litigation, an ‘unless order’ requires a party to carry out a particular act (s)and ‘unless’ the party does so, it may have a judgement ordered against it, or their claim, defence or counterclaim may be struck out and judgement may be entered against that party, which may be ordered to pay all of the costs of the other party which have been incurred in the proceedings.


Orders with a penal notice endorsed on them could be for a variety of breaches, for example, the violation of child arrangement orders in matrimonial proceedings, whereby a party persistently has refused to give the other party the right to see their child as ordered by the court, forcing the aggrieved party to make application after application to the court to force the party in breach to comply.


A penal notice is a note endorsed on a court order stating in no uncertain terms that non-compliance can lead to the person in breach being sent to prison. Suppose a party in violation of an order prohibiting them from doing something (a prohibitive steps order), for example, from going within 500 meters of the home of their former partner/spouse persistently breaches that order or an undertaking given to the court. In that case, there is a real risk that the court will endorse a penal notice on the next occasion. 

When the court’s authority is undermined to such a low level, then the party in breach must face the consequences.

Specific court orders, for example, those requiring the exchange and filing of documents in court such as form E financial statements and service on to the other party, may, in the event of non-compliance with the order, mean that the other party concerned can obtain an order to the effect that unless there is compliance within a certain number of days, the party in breach may not give evidence at trial and may be ordered to pay all the costs incurred to date.


Where the party suing in a civil claim ( the claimant) is a limited liability company or a foreign claimant, there may be an application to the court by the defendant (the party being sued) that because the foreign claimant may disappear if they lose the action, or because searches have shown that the limited liability company has not filed annual returns or accounts for some years, or otherwise is not financially healthy, that in those circumstances if the said claimant wishes to fight the case, then they should be ordered to make a payment of a certain sum in court before they carry on with the proceedings, because otherwise if they don’t give that security for costs to the court and to the opposing party and they end up losing the case, the legal expenses incurred by the other party would be probably irrecoverable from a limited liability company with little or no assets or from a foreign claimant who may simply and conveniently leave for home. 

Creditworthiness and other effects of breaches of court orders

A breach of a court order, such as an order to pay a party a sum of money that is not paid, can result in a judgement being entered against the party in breach and could be registered with credit agencies which could then result in the refusal to give credit to the party at fault, for example, a refusal to grant a mortgage to purchase a property.


Breaches of court orders may result in the freezing of bank accounts, a charge over the property of the party in violation, and the destruction of plagiarised goods that have been produced by breaches of copyright or trademark and other intellectual property breaches. 

Conclusion – What happens if you don’t comply with a court order in the UK? 

There is no advantage in a party breaching a court order. It can even lead to the bankruptcy of the individual or the liquidation/ insolvency of a company. 

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At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

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