It is legalised profiteering. It's very much like the systems of tax collections that one reads about in books from the Middle Ages. There is no effective control on what many of these bailiffs are charging. With parking fines, local councils seem to have abdicated all sense of responsibility and resort to bailiffs in what is little more than a money-making exercise.
The councils are being chiefly irresponsible in using bailiffs far too readily without any sense that they are responsible, as the creditor, for making sure that things are done properly. Politicians have allowed this situation to develop, neglecting to safeguard the interests of people, because it has been administratively convenient to do so.
The Government has been half-hearted in moving towards any regulation of bailiffs. The Government was not prepared to fund the establishment of a proper independent regulator and is intent on trying to bolt this role on to the Security Industry Authority – a body that is demonstrably not fit for purpose.
Collecting money from people that owe it is a fundamental part of a fair society, but it must be done fairly and you absolutely shouldn't do it by sending out thieves and robbers on your behalf to steal it back from the people, which is what many councils do.
We need properly enforced regulations and I just wish the Government would get on with it and do it well. What is going on at the moment is out of another age.
The bailiffs have been as keen as anybody else to get a proper system in place so I'm confident that good regulation would be supported and would see an end to the problem.
Lord Lucas of Crudwell and Dingwall is chair of the Enforcement Law Reform Group