The Ministry of Justice has announced the introduction of bailiffs to wear body cameras. The compulsory body-worn cameras will be for certificated bailiffs and High Court Enforcement Officers in England and Wales.
The Ministry wants debt to be collected in a fair and safe manner and has recommended the use of body-worn cameras so that a video record is kept of every visit. Those who fail to do so will be held to account.
Bailiff firms were left out when the government created the Financial Conduct Authority 2014. Bailiff rules are now very out of step with other organisations that deal with problem debt. Debt advisers, credit unions, car finance firms, banks and debt collectors all answer to a powerful pro-active regulator with powers to investigate firms and impose penalties.
Alistair Chisholm, Head of Advice Sector Policy and Partnerships at the free debt advice firm said:
“Bailiffs have huge legal powers to take people’s goods and in some cases they can even lawfully break into people’s homes; and with such powers should come strong checks. It is past the time that bailiff rules should have caught up with other debt collectors. Bailiff firms should be subject to proper regulation too.”
The move for bailiffs to wear body cameras comes as the Ministry aims to help protect people in debt from intimidation and aggression.
“The use of intimidation and aggression by some bailiffs is utterly unacceptable. It is right we do all we can to tackle such behaviour.
“We hope that the government’s announcement on body warn camera’s in the bailiff industry is a first step towards further reforms in the industry.
“Whilst most bailiffs act above board, body-worn cameras will provide greater security for all involved. Not least consumers who are often vulnerable. We are looking carefully at other measures to improve the system and will not hesitate to take action where necessary.”
Bailiffs operate to enforce court orders for the recovery of debts. They are entitled to seize certain goods to be sold to pay off money that is owed for council tax or other unpaid debts. They are not supposed to enter homes when only children are present. Aggressive behaviour, unnecessary home visits to drive up fees and threats to confiscate essential household items were all recorded as common complaints.
PayPlan is a member of the Taking Control group where free debt advice providers and others have been campaigning for:
- independent regulation of bailiffs and bailiff firms
- a single complaints mechanism
- a review of the statutory bailiff fee structure.