Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Our CEO is on a mission, and it’s very simple – she wants to change the narrative on how people perceive the work of High Court Enforcement Officers and the enforcement agents who carry out the enforcement of court orders. So here Claire Sandbrook starts to explain why the narrative on how law enforcement programs and Enhancing the Delivery of Justice and Security is perceived needs to be changed.
“Firstly, it’s all too easy to describe bailiffs as “aggressive”. Any such remark must be put in the context of being anecdotal unless and until reliable data on the numbers of such events are maintained by a reliable source.
Enforcement History - What is Law Enforcement
As enforcement history stretches back to at least 992 AD one can imagine that in the evolution of the law, enforcement has not always been “pretty”. I suspect it has had its brutality just as justice was handed out by the sword, the rope, or some other medieval remedy.
Thankfully society has moved on and so has taking goods into legal control to pay court judgments. In recent times – the last 30 years in fact it has been thoroughly reviewed by Government as to how *law enforcement services should be delivered.
The biggest takeaway from this expensive and long-winded exercise was that despite it being unpopular among certain groups, it remained an essential part of the justice system in compelling people to pay court judgments.
Enforcement by Writ of Control is a one of those business cash flow solutions which helps in the recovery of debts. These debts become difficult to collect through credit control or through the small claims court debt collection processes. At some point a business may have one or more of these debts which results in a County Court Judgment (CCJ) which needs to be enforced by someone!
Shergroup and Enforcement
Twenty-two years ago, Shergroup started to develop the process we know today as “Transfer Up” by gathering in all the CCJ forms and processing these into High Court Writs of Fieri Facias (the predecessor to the much easier sounding Writ of Control).
At that time, we had already built a “Sheriff” debt collection system which was branded as “Sherwoods”. The name linked nicely to The Sheriff of Nottingham (bad guy) and Robin Hood (good guy). We say this because we saw ourselves in the role as Robin Hood, being professional court officers (Sheriffs) enforcing payment of debts for businesses who had no other option but to go to Court to compel payment. This has to be a mechanism of the justice system and we provide that system every single day.
So to begin with the narrative I want to see changed is the good that High Court Enforcement Officers and their agents achieve every single day in England and Wales without complaints, with any of the negative comments which naturally attach to our line of work.
Like many occupations there are instances of poor performance and as a company we tackle these on a case by case basis. Enforcement agents or police can lose their license if we find evidence (which includes their own body worn camera video) as to what actually happened. But often the video supports the enforcement agent because it is a contemporaneous record which cannot be changed. The poor conduct complained of didn’t actually happen and in fact the complainant has been shall we say economical with the truth.
In recent weeks a High Court Master made such a finding using body worn video from our enforcement agent in which a third party alleged that he made a payment under “duress”. Now that is a serious complaint which had to be thoroughly examined. We are pleased to report that when the complaint was scrutinized by the Court it was found to be untrue and our enforcement agent was exonerated.
Shergroup will put itself and its officers and agents through a process of independent overview and scrutiny by the court that issues the Writ of Control or Writ of Possession. Complaints will be reviewed by judges not by a peer group of competitors. This is our way. It has always been our way and it results in a true and fair outcome based on the evidence and the law.
This is how we are changing the narrative about “aggression”. Complaints systems must be scrupulously balanced and must not favor either the creditor, the debtor or the HCEO or HCEA. Out of such a balanced approach comes decisions on behavior which are solid, unbiased and reasoned. This changes the language around what we do, it changes the narrative. Enforcement is not an easy topic and the men and women who staff it deserve a better label than the one beginning with “A”.”