Dear Tameside Councillors
Tameside against the cuts is an association of individuals who are committed to resisting the effects of the cuts to Benefits and services imposed by the current Government and providing what limited support we can to the victims of the cuts
We are writing to you regarding Tameside Council’s use of Marston group bailiffs to collect unpaid Council Tax from vulnerable and impoversished householders who have already been hard hit by the Governments Welfare Reforms.
Now they are being hit by a double whammy, as Tameside Council is sending in these licensed thugs who force their way into the homes of vulnerable householders and then threaten, bully and even imprison them in their own homes in order to extort large sums of money from them without providing them with any identification, no official court orders and particularly without any valid paperwork showing them a breakdown of the sum being demanded.
Tameside against the cuts recently interviewed victims of these practices, our first example is the case of a female householder who we will identify as Ms A.
A bailiff called Mr Graziani was employed by Marstons who had been commissioned by Tameside Council to collect an outstanding Council Tax debt. Ms A initially opened the door then after he acted aggresively she closed the door on Mr Graziani who then put his foot in the door and his shoulder against the door in order to force it open and pushed past the householder to gain entry into the property.
In this case Ms called the police who attended and asked them to remove the Bailiff, yet the Police Officer failed to acknowledge that the Bailiff was a trespasser despite being told that the Bailiff had forced his way into the property and despite the fact that he had no documentation or paperwork with him.
Mr Graziani subsequently returned to the property the next day and harassed the Ms A into making a payment under duress for an amount of £411.67 despite the fact that Mr Graziani failed to provide any legitimate documentation and no breakdown of the figure of £411.67 being levied
Our second example was another female householder who we will identify as Ms B.
On the 5th november at approximately 2.40 pm Ms B answered the door expecting to see her friend who was due to call before she went to collect her son from school, instead there was a man at her door, he asked her name, when she replied he immediately put his foot in front of her door, he said he had a warrant from court for unpaid council tax and that he was from marstons.
He then produced a piece of paper which was clearly not an official document but merely a list of names and addresses, he said that she owed 411.67, she asked him how it had got that high, he said it was the court costs and marstons fees.
She told him that I was a single parent on benefits with health issues and that she had no money, she only had £15.00, he replied that she must know someonewho would give her the money, by this time he was acting very aggresively, she then asked him to leave, he then threatened that he would call the police, there were two women that she knew who witnessed his intimidating behaviour as she asked him to leave again as she had to collect her young son from school.
She turned to go back into her house to get her mobile phone this man at the door then pushed past her and came into the living room, she had asked him to leave and she had not given him permission to enter my home, she was terrified at this point and she phoned the police.
Ms B was unable to collect her son aged 8 from school, and he was also terrified, he was frightened for his mother’s safety when she phoned him at the school and told him what was happening in order to explain why she couldnt collect him from school because the bailiff would not leave their home.
When the police arrived at 4.00 pm, the bailiff was still in the property and he was refusing to leave until he got the payment of the 411.67 in full, Ms B offered to make a payment but but he would not accept it saying all or nothing., despite the fact that he had no court order, no warrant he said that he would be taking her furniture, her childrens toys, everything in her house.
The police officers were unfortunately not helpful, they refused to get the Bailiff to leave despite the fact that he had no ID, no papers other than a list of addresses and no authority to be in the house as Ms B had refused him entry, he had forced his way in and she had asked him to leave, he was therefore trespassing, the WPC instead told her that she should have paid her council tax as she pays hers at £150.00 a month.
Ms B phoned Tameside council up to offer a payment plan but they said sorry there’s a mark on your file so we aren’t going to help you.
In the end after Ms B had rung all of her family and friends telling them what was happening to her, Ms B’s brother agreed to pay the money that this bailiff was demanding through his credit card and he was charged 3% on top of the 411.67, only then did the bailiff leave.
Ms B states that this experience with this bailiff sent by Tameside Council has really affected her and her son very badly, she is having panic attacks and her son is upset and very angry about what happened to her.
The Law on Bailiffs
Tameside against the cuts are very concerned that these bailiffs who were acting on behalf of Tameside Council were acting unlawfully, they were also acting in a very aggressive manner against vulnerable women who suffered from disabilities, now both of these women were also living on very limitied incomes and would not have been paying Council Tax prior to the changes to Council Tax rules from April 2013 abnd that the way in which Tameside Council has delat with them has been insensitive and has caused them great hardship.
These Bailiffs were clearly acting unlawfully, the limitations on the powers of Bailiffs are very clear and I recommend that you clarify them for yourself, please refer to the Government’s own website here
They are as follows:
Dealing with bailiffs
In most cases, you don’t have to open your front door to a bailiff or let them in.
Bailiffs are not usually allowed to force their way into your home – eg by pushing past you, or putting their foot in the door.
What to ask a bailiff
Before you pay a bailiff, or let them in to take your things, ask to see:
•proof of their identity – eg a badge or ID card
•a detailed breakdown of their charges
Paying a bailiff
If you can’t pay all the money right away, speak to the bailiff about how you could pay the money back. Offer to pay what you can realistically afford in weekly or monthly payments.
In the cases cited above, the Bailif did not provide proof of ID, did not provide a breakdown iof charges, they did force their way into the property and refuse to leave, they were not prepared to negotiate payments with the householder that they could realistically affiord and they continued to trespass on their properties and to harass them until they paid the charges in full.
Case law precedents
In addition to the statutory limitations on the powers of bailiffs there is also a mass of case law precedent which support our position that in both of these cases the Bailiffs from Marstons who were acting on behalf of Tameside Council were acting unlawfully and in breach of common law.
Bailiffs may not apply force to a door to gain entry, and if he does he is not in execution of his duty, Broughton v Wilkinson.
If a Bailiff enters by force he uis there unlawfully and you can treat him as a trespasser, Curlewis v Laurie.
If a Bailiff jams his boot into a debtors door to stop him closing, any levy that is subsequently made is not valid Great Central Railway Co v Bates.
A person having been told to leave is now under a duty to to withdraw from the property with all due reasonable speed and failure to do so he is thereafter acting in execution of his duty and becomes a trespasser with any subsequent levy made being invalid and attracts a liability under claims for damages, Morris v Beardmore.
Debtors can remove implied right of access to the property by telling him to leave, Davis v Lisle, similarly, McArdle v Wallace..
Permission for a Bailiff to enter may be refused provided the words used are not capable of being mistaken for swear words, Bailey v Wilson.
The debtors home and all buildings within the boundary of the premises are protected from forced entry, Munroe & Munroe v Woodspring District Council.
A bailiff rendered a trespasser is liable for penalties in tort and the entry may be in breach of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights if entry is not made in accordance with the law, Jokiner v Finland
Tameside against the cuts hope that in the light of this request Tameside Coumncillors will review their use of Marstons to collect unpaid Council Tax debts and review their procedure of passing such debts to a third party debt collection agency which will cause further hardship for debtors who are the victims of Government imposed welfare reforms which are a breach of their human rights.