Body-worn cameras are to be compulsory for bailiffs under government plans to improve the treatment of people in debt. The Ministry of Justice said that the move, which only affects England and Wales, should help protect those in debt from “intimidation and aggression” used by some bailiffs. However the Citizens Advice Bureau, according to the BBC have said that the cameras would do “nothing” to protect people.
So, is this good news and will the cameras help protect people, in my opinion, the answer to both of these questions is yes. Also it will help protect the bailiffs trying to recover debt, as they have experienced attack and abuse.
For any firm of Solicitors, or debt collection agency who use the services of High Court Enforcement officers, or certificated bailiffs, we have to undertake detailed due diligence to make sure that the reputation of us and our clients are in safe hands. The High Court Enforcement officers we use have had a policy in place since 2013 for their officers to wear body-worn cameras so appear to market leaders in this area.
From my perspective, the choice of High Court Enforcement officers should also be based on the training the officers and the back office staff receive, and the processes and controls in place within the business to fully monitor their officers, which is obviously supported by the wearing of the cameras.
The introduction of the cameras gives the officers “no place to hide”, so the companies will have to ensure that all their officers are trained or re-trained so they are conducting themselves within the regulation guidelines. Officers and agents find themselves in extremely difficult situations, dealing with vulnerable people, they have to handle potential volatile situations.
The officers role is a difficult one. They have to be forceful but fair, reasonable but assertive; they have to empathise with the other party, and ultimately try to engage with them, as their aim is to recover payment for a business or person who is owed money.
There have been accusations of the use of intimidation and aggression by bailiffs, and this has no doubt played a huge part in the introduction of the use of cameras. I am not aware of anyone in the industry who thinks this is a bad idea.
While the reasoning behind it is to protect the customer/consumer, High Court Enforcement officers/agents can also be subject to violence and intimidation. For instance, I am aware that the use of cameras by the company we use has helped prevent an officer from losing his job, when the camera footage showed that he had been in fact been attacked by a customer so was the victim not the perpetrator.
I consider this to be a very positive step, and can only benefit consumers and enforcement officers alike.
Jayne Gardner, Partner and Head of Debt Recovery, Corclaim