Posts Tagged 'Bailiff Crime'

Police and Bailiffs resort to desperate measures to prevent court case exposing criminal phantom visits and illegal fees

Back in August last year we covered a story that typifies the behaviour of bailiffs, local authorities and the police when they respectively choose to break the law and refuse to take action against such law breaking.

It is an incredibly important and far reaching story with implications for many people and the way the law is applied in this country by the police, in what is a biased and uneven way which treats ordinary people differently to the agents of local authorities.  As we explained at the time:

A compelling and detailed case history has been sent to Detective Inspector Caroline Stainer by Peter North.  North’s stand against the illegal fees and refusal to pay for phantom visits has so far resulted in Rundles clamping his vehicle, even though they had no right to do so, North being convicted of criminal damage for removing it by cutting the padlock and Rundles then reporting his car as stolen even though they were not entitled to possession of the vehicle and did not have possession of the vehicle.

Avon & Somerset Police, like forces up and down the country, have turned a blind eye to such criminal behaviour by bailiffs, because they consider the activity of recovering debts on behalf of branches of the establishment – even by illegal means – as upholding law and good order.

Yesterday the case came to court.  Peter North, with barrister representation ready to fight the charges on clear points of law, was confident of victory.  Yet despite months passing since it was known that this case would come to court and be vigorously contested, the bailiffs and police hatched a new plan in front of the judge.  North picks up the tale in detail on his blog which is dedicated to this matter:

Click here to visit the blog

Click here to visit the blog

We were well prepared to go in there and knock their socks off. But Avon and Scummerset Plod had different ideas.  They sabotaged the trial by suggesting to the prosecution that they are “considering” filing a complaint of contempt of court and, get this… Witness Intimidation!

These claims are based on North having published the email address of a witness on his blog; but more pertinently he posted a scanned image of a witness statement, which could be considered contempt of court if he did not remove it, but which was removed immediately – months ago – when he was made aware of the situation. Although North was firmly within his rights to publish the email address of Nicola Spring, a Rundles employee who had anonymously posted comments in an effort to undermine North on a public advice forum, attempting to discredit and libel him while ironically using the forum username ‘truthful and honest’, posting the witness statement was an issue, hence his action to edit both of his blog posts.

Even so, subsequent to this, Rundles made a complaint of witness intimidation (ironic considering their behaviour in the matter over a period of months) on the basis of North publishing the witnesses email address.  Rundles have had months to do this if they felt there was a case to answer for what they are alledging and the police have had months to consider whether arrest is appropriate and have the the Crown Prosecution Service assess the merits of the case, if they believe there is one and if there is a substantial chance of winning such a case.

Yet neither party have done anything about it until the very moment a judge, the police (who would otherwise be on duty, you know, supposedly catching real criminals), two bailiffs, prosecution barrister, defence barrister and a defendant who would otherwise be at work earning his pay in gainful employment, have been assembled in court.  The only reasons they would have done this are:

  1. because Rundles realise their case is wafer thin (their case notes are apparently in complete disarray) and is being contested by a defendant who is rather more clued up and motivated than most people
  2. North has employed a barrister who is doing more than go through the motions and is seeking to make the law work
  3. Avon & Somerset Police consider the activity of recovering debts on behalf of branches of the establishment – even by illegal means – as upholding law and good order, and are desperate not to have the floodgates opened, forcing them to deal with bailiffs who act in a criminal manner when appointed as representatives of local authorities

The blatant abuse of the law, use of illegal methods to enforce collection of debts and even false reports of a vehicle theft to ensure harrassment of the debtor, as exhibited by Rundles, needs to be put to an end and punished severely.  The actions of Avon & Somerset Police yesterday appear to be a conscious attempt to prevent that from happening – to prevent the establishment from being held to account by the law when its agents break the law.

Readers should draw their own conclusions from what North has presented on his blog, but as we said last August, it seems the police have been backed into a corner over bailiff phantom visits and illegal fees.  Now they, with Rundles, seem to be resorting to desperate measures to prevent North having his day in court to expose this contemptible inaction and have it held to account.

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Bailiffs and Councils squirm under fresh spotlight

The epidemic of criminality by bailiffs and law breaking by local councils is being dragged blinking into the sunlight thanks to the Citizens Advice Bureau, which is accusing councils of letting bailiffs get away with threatening and aggressive behaviour when collecting council tax debts.

The CAB report that in a survey of 500 people who were being subjected to bailiff action instigated by local authorities, 38% said that they were charged fees for visits bailiffs never made and 40% reported that they were threatened with the removal of items that did not belong to them. Both of these actions constitute criminal behaviour.  The bailiffs’ ‘trade body’ (no, really), the Civil Enforcement Association, is aggressively denying the findings and rubbishing the survey’s validity, saying:

This is based upon distorted facts, the use of pseudo statistical analysis and highly emotive and inappropriate language. This self-selecting sample of 500 unhappy individuals cannot be extrapolated to imply that it reflects the situation amongst the general population of debtors.

The problem for the association and the vested interests of its membership is that we know from many low profile stories in the local press, and write ups on blogs, that what is being described in the CAB report is not out of the ordinary, but typical features of bailiff action.

The only reason the Civil Enforcement Association is able to say what has been attributed to its director general, Steven Everson, is that councils wrongly and deliberately refer complaints about bailiffs operating on their behalf back to the bailiffs themselves, where the complaints are routinely ignored.  Even where complaints are made to the police no action is taken, for fear that taking action against entities working on behalf of the establishment will undermine the establishment’s ability to extract monies it has determined for itself as being due.

With enforcement of the law not forthcoming because the police ignore the reports made to them despite the evidence provided, and despite reports of criminal behaviour being wrongly and deliberately written off as civil matters, the only organised voice for a large number of victims of fraud perpetrated by bailiffs and councils, is Citizens Advice.  How long that lasts, before pressure is appliedon the CAB to put the matter back under the carpet, remains to be seen.

For newer readers not familiar with the issues, a brief explanation…

The most common example of criminal behaviour is the fraudulent charges applied for liability orders by councils.  The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 (as amended), permit councils to charge ‘costs reasonably incurred’ for liability orders to enforce council tax demands.  The court fee cost of liability orders, according to the Magistrates’ Courts fee schedule, is £3.00.  When factoring in administration and postage overheads the total charged to the resident should be no more than £10.  Yet many councils are charging between £80 – £125 per order, making a profit after costs reasonably incurred.  See here and here.  This is blatantly against the law. Also against the law is the practice of bailiffs charging for visits they have not made, charging fees that are higher than the statutory schedule for fees, threatening behaviour and intimidation, and threatening to undertake actions they have no power to carry out, such as entering a home or changing the locks unless payment is made immediately – which happens frequently.  Councils also seek to evade responsibility for the actions of their contractors despite full responsibility resting with them as  is made clear by the government:

The hypocrisy in all this is we have an establishment that uses the law to ensure people who do not pay the council tax demand in full are threatened, bullied and harrassed until the money is prised from them.  Yet the same establishment works in concert to ensure when its own break the law, no legal action will follow.  The rules are only for the little people.

Trust in the police is not damaged, it’s broken

Inspector Ken MacKaill, of West Mercia Police; Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton, of Warwickshire Police; and Sergeant Chris Jones, of West Midlands Police are the three Police Federation representatives who gave a false account of the meeting they held with Andrew Mitchell over the so called ‘Plebgate’ affair.

Yesterday they collectively flicked Mitchell and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) a middle finger, with a non-apology over their disgraceful, politically motivated actions when they knowingly lied while giving their version of events, in a press conference they called for the sole purpose of demanding that Mitchell resign.

We acknowledge the investigation’s criticism relating to our poor judgement in talking to the media following the meeting with Andrew Mitchell, for which we take this opportunity to apologise.

We would like to emphasise (as we did to the investigation) that in no way did any of us ever plan or intend to mislead anyone about what occurred during this meeting or otherwise.

Their ‘apology’ was only for talking to the media.  They have refused to apologise for their conduct and their attempted deception.  In effect, they are saying ‘Yes, we lied, what are you going to do about it?’  Now it is time these officers had the book thrown at them.  They do not deserve to carry a warrant card.  They have been shown to be dishonest.

Any person convicted of an offence on the contested evidence of any of these three officers, would seem to have sufficient grounds to appeal their conviction.  The fact is Mackaill, Hinton and Jones lied.  This has been proved by the secret recording made by Andrew Mitchell.  There is no escape from this fact.  They have demonstrated that their word as police officers cannot be trusted.  They thought they could get away with lying about the discussion they had with Mitchell, a Cabinet Minister.  So what else have they thought they could get away with in dealings with far more lowly people?

The public cannot have confidence in these officers – or their Chief Constables who are content to keep them in positions of power they have already shown they are willing to abuse.  They have no credibility.  They have no integrity. The public deserve better.

The fact that Mitchell took a recording device into the meeting before he had any certainty that these officers would lie, demonstrates he already had no confidence that they would tell the truth.  If a Cabinet Minister is that suspicious of police, what message does that send to the rest of us?

At the same time the IPCC was, for once, telling it the way it is regarding the conduct of these three officers, there was another officer giving evidence into his shooting of Mark Duggan.  An officer who, despite claiming he clearly saw a gun in Duggan’s hand, thus prompting him to fire, seemingly did not see that gun nestle some 10-20ft away, over a fence, from the scene of the shooting.

That officer’s evidence was contradicted by the previously silent cab driver, who told the court Duggan was trying to flee.  In years gone by I would have accepted the officer’s evidence, relying on honesty and integrity.  Today, not a chance.  Not without irrefutable evidence to back up his assertion.  From Hillsborough to de Menezes, dishonesty has become a stock in trade for too many officers, confident their colleagues will close ranks to shield them.

While minor in comparison, one consistent behaviour of many police officers up and down the country has reinforced my opinion.  Namely, their dogged refusal to act on complaints of criminal actions by bailiffs.

Despite the law being clear that bailiffs cannot practice unless they are appropriately certificated by a judge and remain so, despite the law being clear that bailiffs are not allowed to misrepresent their powers to debtors, despite the law being clear that bailiffs must not threaten or intimidate debtors and despite the law being clear that bailiffs may only levy certain charges above the debt as set down in a schedule, not one bailiff who has broken the law pertaining to these rules and had a debtor file a complaint against them with police, has been arrested and prosecuted.  This despite hundreds if not thousands of people having been victims of such criminal abuses.

That fact, moreso than any lie by a few bent coppers with an axe to grind about changes to police pay and conditions, demonstrates that trust in the police is not merely damaged, rather it has been completely broken.  Broken because the police are selectively refusing to uphold the law when they consider the offender is on their side and the victim has it coming to them.

Perhaps this explains the determination of the Chief Constables of Mackaill, Hinton and Jones’ respective forces to not bring disciplinary action against these untrustworthy officers.  Policing has become partial.  Its supposed independence abused for self serving ends.  Senior police officers repeatedly speak of policing by consent, but what far too many people in this country are experiencing daily is policing with contempt.  The bobby on the beat has been replaced by the paramilitary plod – separate from the community and viewing it as an enemy to be suppressed.

We cannot accept this any longer.  It is time to make a stand.

The UK, war and the British people

This is not a reference to the impending armed adventure in the Middle East.  This is not the UK being at war with Syria, but the UK government being at war with its people.

If there was ever a compact between the government and the people, it has long since rotted away.  The latest example of this is the news that the government and police are rushing to investigate an alleged fraud by the services provider, Serco, concerning irregularities in records kept for its £285m prisoner escorting contract.

The investigation focusses on the allegation that Serco overcharged the government a sum in the ‘low tens of millions’ of pounds.  As well as the probability of criminal prosecutions, the company faces being barred from tendering for other government contracts.  The punishment, if Serco are found to have engaged in fraud, will be swift and sure.  As well as column acres of media coverage, we can be certain the matter will surface in the House of Commons as MPs rush to criticise and condemn both outsourcing per se and the company’s actions and greivous offence against the ‘public’.

Here we see the government pressing the full force of the state into action to punish any offences committed against it.

Now let us compare this laser-like focus of the state on punishing fraud amounting to perhaps £20-30m with the state’s focus on a much larger and more widespread criminal enterprise made up of fraud, harrassment and threatening behaviour, amounting to many hundreds of millions of pounds – possibly over £1bn – committed in the last year alone against many of the more than 1.8 million members of the public who had unpaid charges put into the hands of bailiffs… the wilful overcharging and illegal application of fees by local authorities through liability orders and the illegal charges, false accounting and criminal behaviour of bailiffs.

This week another example of the many instances of this racketeering has managed to sneak its way into local news coverage in Wales, where a Caerphilly resident owed unpaid council tax just £180, yet despite receiving no warning letters was faced with bailiffs, acting as an agent of and on behalf of Caerphilly County Borough Council, at her door demanding payment.  Not only that, but the bailiff fraudulently added a further £200 charge to the debt for their services.  The amount set down in law that bailiffs can charge is £24.50 for their first visit and £18.00 for a second and final visit.  They can only charge for two visits.  Attempting to charge hundreds of pounds in the way they do is blatantly illegal.

The bailiff is reported to have returned to visit the resident last week and told her that if she did not pay £75 he would come back and change the locks on her house.  This is not only a clear example of harrassment, it is also an attempt to extract money with menaces as bailiffs do not have the power to change the locks on a residential property over an unpaid debt, and asserting such a course of action is a clear offence.  A fraud is being perpetrated against this resident, a mother of four with limited means. She is just one in over a million.

As is standard practice in such cases, which all too infrequently get press attention in this way, a Caerphilly Council spokesman said:

We are unable to comment on individual cases, but the council makes every effort to assist residents who are in arrears before taking further action.

You will note that despite Caerphilly being wholly responsible for the behaviour and actions of their agents and representatives, the council has not addressed the illegality of the bailiff’s effort to charge fees above the legal amount or taken any steps to address the harrassment and intimidation by the bailiffs they engaged.

The police’s readiness to investigate and take action against Serco, which is alleged to have committed crime through fraudulent overcharging for services and charging for services not undertaken, contrasts dramatically with the refusal of the police to investigate and take action against bailiffs who are alleged to have committed crime through fraudulent overcharging for services and charging for services not undertaken.

The double standard is clear.  The people of this country are being denied the protection of the law when the state and its agents break the law to suit their own interests, yet when the state feels it has been wronged its full arsenal is brought to bear on the alleged offender, be that a rich company being greedy or hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who struggle to pay the ever increasing sums demanded by government to service its activities.

And new methods of gouging money from the public are being developed all the time.  A report in the Telegraph explains how over 1 million drivers in the last year have had traffic enforcement charges (mainly parking infringments) put into the hands of bailiffs, with the AA observing that even when mistakes are made, councils seem to readily wash their hands of drivers trapped in a cycle of threats from debt collectors and bailiffs:

The bailiff process is virtually unstoppable, even for the innocent and getting someone to listen is virtually impossible.

The fact that bailiffs are now swanning around like bounty hunters in vehicles with ANPR cameras to find vehicles with outstanding warrants is sinister.

The story also includes a reference to evidence given earlier this year by the London Motorists’ Action Group to the Transport Select Committee that bailiffs “frequently and fraudulently demand fees which are far in excess of the permitted statutory level.”

Barrie Segal, who runs the AppealNow website also said for the Telegraph piece that, “It’s a bit like the wild west, but there are no good guys out there to look after motorist”.  And this is the point, the double standard reinforced, the police – the supposed good guys – are refusing to do their sworn duty turning a blind eye to fraud committed on behalf of the state, while always going after anyone who is alleged to have committed fraud against the state.

How is this not a war being waged on the people of this country by those who are supposed to serve us?

Police backed into a corner over bailiff phantom visits and illegal fees

No doubt this will be shamefully ignored by the media, including those journalists who read this blog.  It seems a determined effort by Avon and Somerset Police to not investigate the bailiff and debt recovery firm, Rundles, for the criminal application of attendance fees that exceed the statutory limits – and fraudulent phantom visits – has run out of road.

A compelling and detailed case history has been sent to Detective Inspector Caroline Stainer by Peter North.  North’s stand against the illegal fees and refusal to pay for phantom visits has so far resulted in Rundles clamping his vehicle, even though they had no right to do so, North being convicted of criminal damage for removing it by cutting the padlock and Rundles then reporting his car as stolen even though they were not entitled to possession of the vehicle and did not have possession of the vehicle.

Avon & Somerset Police, like forces up and down the country, have turned a blind eye to such criminal behaviour by bailiffs, because they consider the activity of recovering debts on behalf of branches of the establishment – even by illegal means – as upholding law and good order.  The blatant abuse of the law, use of illegal methods to enforce collection of debts and even false reports of a vehicle theft to ensure harrassment of the debtor, as exhibited by Rundles, needs to be put to an end and punished severely.

The self promotional claims of Rundles contrast dramatically with the reality of the behaviour of their bailiffs on the ground.  Rundles, which describes itself as ‘a 5-star debt recovery agency specialising in council tax, penalty charge notices and national non-domestic rates’ say on their website:

Our team of certificated bailiffs is one of the largest in the country. Each of them is handpicked for their skills, attitude and approach and given comprehensive training to make sure they continue to deliver excellent collection rates.

Integrity and transparency are vital to us. Our clients’ accounts are fully audited by an independent Top 20 accountancy firm and Dun & Bradstreet recently gave us a 5-star rating, which means the condition of our business is superior to other firms in the industry.

The evidence presented by North lays utter waste to these claims.  It is no wonder collection rates are ‘excellent’ when people who do not know the rules bailiffs are supposed to follow and are subsequently cowed into paying more than they owe, thus made victims of fraud in pursuit of debt recovery.  Particularly when local authorities who are responsible for the conduct of the agents they retain, also ignore the illegal behaviour and tactics deployed.  Councils seemingly feel their residents are fair game for such maltreatment if for whatever reason they don’t pay the monies demanded, at the time and in the way the council demands.

North has drawn a line in the sand and is refusing to be fobbed off.  Any failure by the police to act now, after so much detail has been provided that shows the bailiffs have engaged in fraud and criminal behaviour, would represent a scandal of immense proportions and destroy any faith ordinary people have in the police and local authorities.

Crime is crime.  The establishment does not have immunity under the law.  It does not have a free pass to behave illegally with impunity.  Our public servants need to remember their place and serve.  That process needs to kickstart with the bringing charges against the bailiffs from Rundles acting on behalf of South Gloucestershire Council.


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