Physical bailiff doorstep activity to execute warrants and serve orders was stopped by HMCTS following the lockdown measures introduced in 2020.
HMCTS advised PCS that they intended to restart bailiff doorstep activity, initially beginning with the service of documents via either personal service or substituted/alternative service on 10 July 2020. This was to be followed by recommencing the execution of warrants of control at residential premises and the enforcement of possession orders with effect from 24 August 2020.
Whilst the start of evictions was subsequently stayed the position for bailiffs was that all other enforcement activity remained live. When England and Wales subsequently went into tier 4 and the latest lockdown of tier 5, HMCTS failed to consult with the DTUS about bailiff operations and instead issued instructions to continue executing everything apart from evictions. PCS was not consulted on this decision nor were we consulted on the guidance that was issued on Friday 8 January 2021.
Whilst bailiffs possess more issued PPE than the first lockdown and have been effective in using that PPE within the limitations of the tiered covid instructions from HMCTS, on entering tier 4 and more concerning tier 5, bailiffs have understandably become more concerned for their own safety.
PCS has written to the employer calling for the immediate suspension of all bailiff activity for the duration of the national lockdown. We will advise of the outcome as soon as a response is received from the employer.
Advice to members
The Bailiff Manual clearly states that the Bailiff having control of the visit is the final arbiter of risk. This means that nobody can countermand your risk assessment. PCS advises that in undertaking that risk assessment, you should attach weight to keeping yourself safe. PCS will support any member who as final arbiter of risk determines in any circumstances that they cannot carry out work safely. PCS also take the opportunity to remind our bailiff members that as individuals you have already received individual written advice regarding your personal safety when performing your bailiff or any other duties. HMCTS constantly maintain that they are following PHE guidance. PHE is not the employer; it is HMCTS and as such it is their duty to ensure that its employees are safe. Safety at work is a right not a privilege.