Bailiff's firm fails owing cash for courts

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The Independent Online
A FIRM of bailiffs which collected fines from offenders has ceased trading, owing magistrates' courts hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Police in two counties were called in to investigate after complaints were received about Bailiff's Office and Company Ltd, a south London- based firm which recovered fines and issued warrants for several courts in the South- east.

They were called in after a solicitor acting for Peterborough magistrates, who are owed pounds 62,500, seized files from an office in Cambridgeshire. It was discovered that money had been collected from offenders and sent to the firm's headquarters in Crystal Palace, but was not passed on to the magistrates.

A Cambridgeshire police spokesman said matters had been referred to the Lord Chancellor's Department.

Police in Suffolk had also received complaints about the company.

The nine courts affected are St Albans in Hertfordshire; Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich in Suffolk; King's Lynn and Thetford in Norfolk, Greenwich in south-east London; Guildford in Surrey; Cambridge and Peterborough.

Lawyers from the Treasury Solicitors' Department acting on behalf of the nine will move to have the company wound up in the High Court later this month, a spokesman for the Lord Chancellor's Department said.

A spokesman said all magistrates had been warned not to use the company. He said that people who had paid a fine or part of a fine would not be required to pay again.

'People who have paid only have to show a receipt for their money. Those who have lost or misplaced receipts will be dealt with on a case by case basis,' he said.

A spokesman for St Albans magistrates, owed pounds 31,500, said new bailiffs had been appointed and a computer system giving court officials direct access to the collector's accounts was now in operation, to prevent further abuses.

Nobody at the company, which is believed to have gone into receivership, could be contacted for comment yesterday. The receiver, Chris Iacovides, last night refused to comment.