Andrew Wilson & Co Welcome Recommendations from Justice Select Committee
May 8, 2019
Andrew Wilson and Co. have welcomed the House of Commons Justice Committee's recommendations for improvements to the civil enforcement industry. The committee have recently released their report 'Bailiffs: Enforcement of Debt', which focused on whether the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) reforms of the enforcement system in 2014 had worked and helped to curb bad practice. Their inquiry looked at whether the 2014 reforms had made the enforcement system fairer and more efficient and asked what more could be done.
Further to their call for an independent regulator, the Justice Committee also made numerous recommendations to the government regarding the working practices of the civil enforcement industry. Such as:
- giving a new regulator the powers to bar unprofessional bailiffs from operating
- mandatory body cameras for all enforcement agents
- an independent complaints body
- regular review of fees by the new regulator
Speaking about best practice in the civil enforcement industry, Sarah Roscoe, Managing Director at Andrew Wilson & Co. said she is confident her team are already adhering to the highest professional standards.
"Our Enforcement Agents are skilled in dealing with stressful situations. We enforce civil court orders for the repayment of debt in a responsible and fair manner. We have a reputation for delivering the best possible service to our clients and are trusted to carry out our duties in a sensitive manner".
How had the civil enforcement industry responded?
The findings of this report did not come as a surprise to most industry professionals. While a first-year review of the 2014 reforms by the MOJ did not find any 'unintended consequences' from the changes demanded by the reform, it did find 'that debt advisers and debtors still perceived some enforcement agents to be acting aggressively and in some cases not acting within the regulations'.
The Advice Sector also calls for change
The Justice Committee are not the first to call for change in the civil enforcement industry. In 2017, the advice sector produced its own third year review of the 2014 reforms. It cited numerous case studies illustrating problems and one of their suggested reforms was the establishment of an independent regulator.
How do these findings relate to the Ministry of Justice Call for Evidence?
Separate to the Justice Committee’s inquiry, but taking place concurrently, was the MOJ’s own Call for Evidence on rogue bailiffs. The Call for Evidence, which closed in February, looked at how the 2014 reforms continue to work in practice. In particular, it looked at the new fee structure and assessed whether it is having a positive impact on the behaviour of enforcement agents or debtors. The MOJ is now analysing all the submissions received. The High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) and its colleagues in the Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) submitted suitable detailed case studies to the MOJ in their Call for Evidence. The MOJ will now analyse the evidence gathered to see whether any regulatory amendments or other changes may be necessary. The recent report from the Justice Committee sits alongside that.
The HM Courts and Tribunals Service Reform Programme
How does all this sit in with another reform programme by the HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) which has turned its attention to civil enforcement this year? It is likely the conclusion of the Call for Evidence from the MOJ will feed into the suggestions from the HMCTS for any changes in enforcement.
What happens next?
The government now have two months to respond to the Justice Committee Report. In the meantime, the Enforcement Agents at Andrew Wilson & Co. will continue to adhere to the highest professional standards and carry out their duties in a fair and reasonable manner.
Ministry of Justice - One Year Review of 2014 Reforms
Advice Sector - Third Year Review of 2014 Reforms
Ministry of Justice - Review of enforcement agent (bailiff) reforms: call for evidence
Transforming Courts and Tribunals - A progress update