Bailiffs should wear bodycams and face tougher regulations, say MPs

Justice Committee highlights 'worrying' examples of vulnerable people with serious health conditions being threatened with prison and incorrectly being made to pay other people's debts

Ben Chapman
Thursday 11 April 2019 09:10 BST
What to do if bailiffs come to you house: Advice from StepChange Debt Charity

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Bailiffs should be required to wear body cameras when collecting debts to stop rogue operators from breaking the law and pressurising vulnerable people, according to an MPs' report.

MPs on the Justice Committee highlighted "worrying" examples of bailiff malpractice such as a vulnerable constituent being threatened with prison while her serious health conditions were ignored.

In another case an elderly woman was wrongly forced to pay the debt of her adult son.

In a highly critical report, MPs called on the government to create a new watchdog with the power to ban "unfit" bailiffs from collecting debts, and to “change culture and raise standards” in the under-regulated industry.

The committee said the current complaints procedure for dealing with rogue bailiffs is “fragmented and hard to navigate”, especially for vulnerable people.

Dedt charity StepChange estimates that there have been 850,000 cases of misconduct by bailiffs in the past two years, making the case for change "urgent".

The Justice Committee found a large gap between the number of complaints recieved by charities and those recorded by bailiffs.

Peter Tutton, head of policy at StepChange, said: “Enforcement by bailiffs is intrusive and places disproportionate costs on people in the most vulnerable circumstances."

The charity is calling on government to bring in the Justice Committee's proposed reforms in the next Queen's Speech later this year.

Bob Neill, chairman of the Justice Committee, said: “We were surprised that no regulator is already in place. We're calling on the Government to consult on whether new powers should sit with an existing body or a new one, and how it should be funded.

“Debt enforcement can have a real impact on people's lives so it is vital to ensure that the processes in place are fair and proportionate to all parties concerned.”

Shadow justice spokesman Richard Burgon said: “People in vulnerable situations clearly need better protection from aggressive bailiffs whose unscrupulous behaviour far too often causes significant stress and anxiety.

“The Tories should act on this report and commit to an independent regulator to crackdown on rogue bailiffs who are often pushing the law to its limits - or even going beyond it.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “There is absolutely no excuse for the aggressive tactics deployed by some bailiffs and our recent call for evidence considered how they operate and whether there is a need for an independent regulator.

“We will carefully consider this report and respond to it, along with the call for evidence, in due course.”

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