Bailiffs may get extra powers to enter homes

Ministers have been accused of threatening individual liberties over proposals that privately employed bailiffs should be given rights to physically remove debtors who try to prevent belongings from being seized. Bailiffs have been denied the right to break into homes for hundreds of years and the move is aimed at stopping debtors using tactics such as blocking the door to their home.

Justice minister Lord Bach assured critics that any new powers will only be introduced after wide-ranging consultation, and would not lead to pockets being searched or jewellery snatched. The Government insists the new regime would be supervised by a robust industry watchdog.

But civil-rights campaigner Paul Nicolson, chair of the welfare charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, said the moves undermine fundamental rights, and raised the prospect of violent confrontations.

He added: "These [proposed] laws strip away tried and tested protections that make a person's home his castle and which have stood for centuries."

Last week Her Majesty's Courts Service pointed out that, under legislation passed in 2004, bailiffs can already break down doors as a last resort to collect court fines.

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