Bailiff Reform Moves Forward

At last the Government has moved forward on its proposals to tackle aggressive bailiffs with reforms being introduced next year in England and Wales. Shergroup was approached last week by the UK Government's Ministry of Justice with this welcome news and took part in a filming exercise in Central London after other bailiff companies failed to come up with a spokesperson.

The proposals demonstrate the Government's commitment to tackle the problems of aggressive enforcement which include horror stories of the bailiffs entering homes at night or where only children are present. New safeguards will prevent them from using force against people who owe money.

Regulations on fees - the most contentious issue in the enforcement industry in Shergroup's view - will be replaced by fee scales which give little room for interpretation.

Claire Sandbrook, Shergroup's CEO, and the former Chair of the High Court Enforcement Officers Association, is at last seeing work that she started with Government in 2009 come to a sensible conclusion.

She says "As Chair of the HCEOA I insisted that Finance Directors were part of the discussion with Government on the issue of fees and as a result we built a credible model in which the cost of running an enforcement business was covered by the fees charged. We trust that Government will continue with its sensible approach to the economics of running enforcement businesses which are transparent about their costs and net profit margins".

As far as Shergroup is concerned it continues to works safely and responsibly with the public with High Court Masters signing off on fees which are in dispute through a practical fee review application. Sandbrook believes that this is the only way until the new legislation is implemented to ensure that fees are scrutinized to the high standard which the public expect and which create certainty for HCEOs in delivering justice for judgment creditors.

Sandbrook has also argued repeatedly for the reform of the 1991 Jurisdiction Order which prevents judgment debts under £600 and judgments obtained under Consumer Credit legislation to come up to HCEOs for enforcement.

On this point she is emphatic by saying "The Government has a success story in the HCEO industry and HCEOs have worked hard to create a professional and successful enforcement model which I believe is world class. As a result HCEOs should be able to enforce judgments of any amount and for any type of civil court judgment without artificial limits which are, in my view, retained to protect the income generated from county court warrants for H M Treasury. I have repeatedly said this is a mistake and that judgment creditors should have a choice on which agency they choose to enforce their judgment. For over 20 years judgment creditors with smaller judgment debts or those regulated by Consumer Credit legislation have been denied access to our service". The consultation responses published by the MoJ supported Sandbrook’s view that the law should be changed.

Turning to other areas of proposed reform the Government is now forging ahead with:

Mandatory training and a new certification process for bailiffs
   
New rules on recovering rent arrears
   
Regulations detailing when a bailiff can form a property, what they can take and as a result what fees they can charge
   
Force against the person and entering property when only children are present

At Shergroup we believe all these reforms are urgently needed and as a national TEAM we continue to support every aspect of professional enforcement through the delivery of our service with a balanced approach towards both creditors and debtors.

To read the Government's response please click the link below:
https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-bailiff-action

For the official Ministry of Justice press release please clink the link below:
http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/press-releases/moj/aggressive-bailiff-tactics-outlawed

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