Labour MP, Emma Reynold has urged the Conservative government to put in place procedures to hold malign bailiffs to account. She is one of the first elected officials to advocate for more accountability for this group.
Bailiffs are the only group besides the police who have the power to enter homes and seize assets. For the police force, the IPCC is in place to deal with public complaints if officers act inappropriately or beyond authority. There is no similar institution to oversee the conducts of bailiffs. Reynolds argued, ‘If you have a complaint against a bailiff, short of taking them to court, there is no meaningful way to seek redress’. Court procedures are expensive. Someone being visited by bailiffs is unlikely to be in a position to afford legal action. Essentially giving bailiffs similar level of power to the police but with zero accountability.
Reynold also challenged the dismissive attitude of Conservative ministers. She rejected ministers claims of malpractice being a trivial and a limited problem. Evidence published by CA research shows, over 38 per cent of bailiff’s broke rules during visits in the last 2 years: 850,000 cases. The evidence supports Reynolds claim of misconduct being a ‘widespread problem’.
The unlawful behaviour of bailiffs and its consequences has been widely reported by the public. Only two years ago, the bailiff issue came to the forefront when Jerome Rogers, 20, committed suicide after being hounded for a £65 parking ticket. Countless YouTube videos also document bailiffs entering wrong homes, bullying, misrepresenting the law, and being generally unpleasant. Despite widespread reporting and statistical evidence of bailiff misconduct, no comprehensive action has been taken.
This lack of action can be assigned to political incentives. Bailiffs are a weapon for extortionate money lending companies. It is a weapon against those on a low income. ONS research has shown, people on low income do not vote for the Conservative party. Low-income voters generally vote Labour. Conservative MPs and the conservative party have also received donations from businesses who utilise bailiffs. All these factors likely prevent and stunt necessary regulation.
Public pressure can motivate policies to curb bailiff malpractice. Mainstream media, however, is determined to portray bailiff’s as benevolent. This prevents mobilisation of public opinion. BBC shows like Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away and Beat the Bailiff all create a false narrative of bailiffs being a necessity, and everyone on the other end is deserving. Labour activist Rachel Swindon has commented on the misinformation camping being carried out.
Emma Reynolds advocacy is a step forward. Media campaigns, advocacy by politicians, and reporting will generate political pressure to regulate this industry.