Emma Reynolds MP: Aggressive bailiffs must be stopped
Emma Reynolds says people are being mistreated by rogue bailiffs. Writing in the Express & Star, she explains why has called a Parliamentary debate in a bid to change the law to make it easier for people to challenge their behaviour.
Imagine that one morning as you are getting ready for work, two burly strangers, dressed similarly to the police, bang on your door.
They start shouting that they need to speak to you about money that you owe the local council, attempting to humiliate you in front of your neighbours.
You feel you have to let them in, if only to shut them up and stop the embarrassment.
But once inside your home, they roam freely, seizing your possessions and demanding any cash you might have.
You are not being burgled. You are being visited by bailiffs.
They are paid a fee if they recover a debt so they are determined to get the money owed.
You are willing to agree to a repayment plan but the bailiffs refuse.
You have to borrow from a pay day lender, plunging you further into debt.
WATCH: Emma Reynolds outlines her debate
This is a familiar story to many MPs whose constituents have suffered at the hands of aggressive bailiffs.
That’s why I called for a debate in Parliament about stopping this kind of behaviour.
Nobody is disputing that public authorities and others need to recover debt but it shouldn’t be carried out in an intimidating, degrading and humiliating way.
The police are the only other profession permitted by law to enter your property in this manner.
They have to secure a search warrant and you have to be suspected of serious criminality. So why are we treating people with small debts the same as criminals?
If you have a complaint against the police, you can report it to the IPCC.
If you have a complaint against a bailiff, short of taking them to court, there is no meaningful way to seek redress.
The uncomfortable truth is that bailiffs have become a law unto themselves. The scale of the problem is as shocking as the behaviour.
Some 2.2 million people were visited by bailiffs in the last two years. Citizens Advice have found that one in three people have seen bailiffs breaking the rules, 40 per cent have suffered intimidation and there has been a 24 per cent increase in problems since the Government’s reforms were introduced in 2014.
I welcome the recent call for evidence the Government launched late last year. Regrettably the new rules they introduced five years ago are simply not being enforced.
There is cross party-support for an independent regulator to enforce the rules. MPs from across the political spectrum have today written to the government calling for urgent action.
I hope that my debate, alongside evidence presented by victims of this behaviour and charities working in this field, will convince the Government of the need to introduce an independent regulator and a transparent complaints procedure.
Ministers talk about the poor practice of a small number of rogue bailiffs but this flies in the face of the evidence.
This is not just a few bad apples but a widespread problem. We have to face up to the scale of the challenge, if we are to find the right solutions. Anyone can get into debt and in a civilised society everyone must be treated with respect.
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