Body cameras to be compulsory for bailiffs
Bailiffs visiting debtors in their homes will be forced to film visits using body-worn cameras, under new government plans.
The move is part of wider government efforts to improve how people in debt are treated. Ministers say that although the “vast majority” of bailiffs act professionally, many intimidate customers when attempting to collect debts.
The government also plans to introduce a 60-day “breathing space” for debtors, during which people will be protected from enforcement action from creditors, and will also see the interest, fees and charges on their debts frozen.
Paul Maynard, justice minister, said: “The use of intimidation and aggression by some bailiffs is utterly unacceptable, and it is right we do all we can to tackle such behaviour.
“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.”
Body-worn cameras are already widely used by the police to show juries or judges the scale of abuse or violence officers face when dealing with an incident or arresting a suspect.
However, Citizens Advice says the introduction of compulsory cameras won’t protect people from rule-breaking bailiffs unless the industry is regulated.
The charity has been campaigning with its partners in the Taking Control coalition for the introduction of a regulator to enforce rules set out in government reforms in 2014.
Research by Citizens Advice and debt charity Stepchange found a third (850,000) of the 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the two years to November 2018 experienced them breaking those rules – such as forcing entry into a home or removing goods needed for work. The research also found nine in 10 people back an independent regulator for bailiffs.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Bailiff body cameras will do nothing to protect people while there is no industry regulator to oversee how they are used.
“While it’s encouraging the government has committed to further action, its next step must be the creation of an independent regulator to crack down on rule-breaking bailiffs.
“At Citizens Advice, we help one person every three minutes with a bailiff problem. We hope the government will take full consideration of our recommendations in its upcoming response to its call for evidence.”
A report published in April by the Justice Ministry found the current complaints system for bailiffs was fragmented and difficult for vulnerable people to navigate.