Union warns against privatisation of court fine enforcement

4 November 2011

PCS has urged the government to reconsider plans to privatise criminal enforcement stating that private firms will only target the vulnerable and waste public money

An ITV1 Exposure programme on bailiffs aired earlier this week has confirmed union fears that private companies seek to falsely increase fees and only attempt to execute warrants upon the most vulnerable people who are easier targets than persistent offenders. The union warned that the inability of the bailiff featured on the programme to work to any guidelines is a signal of what the future of criminal fines collection will look like if privatisation is allowed to happen.

Outstanding criminal fines imposed by courts in England and Wales as of May 2011 exceeded £609 million. PCS believes that this is related to the fact that the numbers of court enforcement officers have been reduced from 561 in 2005 to 396 in 2011.

The union is putting forward alternative proposals that would result in the function remaining within the civil service and significantly improve the collection of fines.

A PCS spokesperson said: "Civilian enforcement officers employed by the courts who work as a team with court staff offer the most effective way of collecting fines. The private bailiff industry lacks regulation and the public are therefore offered no protection. If this privatisation goes ahead you are more likely to be aggressively targeted by bailiffs if you have a one-off parking fine than if you are a persistent offender.

"The inability of the bailiff featured on the programme to work to any guidelines could be the future of criminal fines collection in the if privatisation is allowed to happen."

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