Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Bid to stop 'heavy-handed' bailiffs

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly outlined updated national standards for bailiffs to follow
Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly outlined updated national standards for bailiffs to follow

The Government has unveiled measures to protect the public from "heavy-handed" bailiffs.

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly outlined updated national standards to define acceptable behaviour.

They are designed to tackle intimidatory and threatening conduct, and prevent bailiffs from misrepresenting their powers.

Councils and other authorities will adopt the standards which will be used to set rules for any bailiffs working for them.

Mr Djanogly said: "Bailiffs are an important part of the justice system so the few unscrupulous bailiffs must be stopped from putting people in harm's way or taking advantage of the vulnerable. We want to bring an end to the rogue behaviour that can make people's lives a misery.

"Whilst I know the majority of bailiffs are responsible, too many are not. We often hear stories, and see evidence, of people being mistreated by heavy-handed bailiffs. We are working with the bailiff industry, and other groups, to make sure that cannot happen any more, but also that people can still collect their debts fairly.

"What we have announced today is the first step towards tackling this issue, which will be followed shortly by proposals for a new regulatory regime."

The updated standards will include minimum levels of behaviour, including that bailiffs must not behave in a threatening manner or use unlawful force to gain access to a home or business, they should avoid discussing the debt with anyone except the person owing money, and they must withdraw when only a child is present.

Mr Djanogly also outlined proposals to create a new legally-binding regulatory regime, which includes new rules around the modes and times of entry, which goods are exempt, and what fees bailiffs can charge for the range of debts they collect for local government, courts and businesses.

The full proposals will be consulted on in spring, with a view to them becoming law as soon as possible.

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