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Magistrate Court FINES and Bailiff fees...An official response from HMCTS


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The subject of Magistrate court fines and in particular, the matter of bailiff fees for enforcing such criminal fines has been the subject of much debate on this forum for a very long time ( this will no longer be the case from 6th April when the new fee scale is implemented).

 

Sadly, there are a handful of websites (known to this forum) that are known for providing misleading information to debtors and in doing so, the websites encourage debtors to either take court proceedings against either the bailiff companies, the Ministry of Justice or the Police. For a 'fixed fee' the website even offers to 'draft' the relevant claim forms on behalf of the debtor. It should be noted that to date, the websites in question have failed to provide any evidence of a successful court action.

 

It would seem that yet another debtor (by the name of C.L.Miller) has been misled by the advice that he received on the internet and accordingly, made a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice in December. The link below is to his question and the official response dated yesterday.

 

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/bailiff_actions

Edited by dx100uk
copied text as link was bad - dx
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To clarify, Mr Millers questions were as follows:

 

Dear Her Majesty’s Courts and the Tribunals Service,

 

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews. Under the FOI act I am requesting that you confirm/deny or answer the following questions and statements.

 

1) If i paid my court fine direct to court does this still leave the distress warrant available to the private bailiffs that you employ to come to my house and say i'm a court bailiff and threaten me with arrest and also saying he is going to drill my locks for just his fees ?

 

No levy was made and no distress had taken place.

 

Would you suggest a form 4 complaint on a bailiff that has done all of the above acts ?

 

2)The issue of a Distress Warrant falls under Section 76 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 to recover the sum you have been ordered to pay by levying distress on your goods (taking and selling them) to satisfy the amount you are ADJUDGED to pay.

 

3)When you pay the sum you were fined by the court,(not the bailiff charges added to it) the law says the distress warrant "no longer has effect". Part 52.8(5) of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2013. In other words, the warrant dies.

 

4)Some bailiff companies claim Part 52.8(5)(ii) of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2013 is a license to charge "fees" or the "costs of execution of the warrant".

 

5)The law actually says it only applies to the "extra sum payable in connection with the EXECUTION of the warrant". That means, when you pay your fine (the sum you are adjudged), there are no costs of execution because there is no warrant to execute - it ceased to have effect.

 

6)There is nothing in the legislation that enables bailiffs to enforce payment of "fees" and HM court service has confirmed it does not enforce payment of fees.

If so why do court staff say you have to pay fees ?

 

7) Should a bailiff discuss my debt or try to obtain money from anyone but the debtor ?

 

8)What does the contract that you have with the private bailiff companies say about monies received from a debtor in regards to paying the courts after the bailiffs have received money from the debtor for a court.

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The official response dated 21st January 2014 is from the National Contracts Manager; Criminal Enforcement Team at Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunal Service:

 

 

 

"I can refer you to relevant legislation, I believe in questions 1 to 6, you consider that there is no lawful authority for you to be required to pay the bailiff charges.

 

We disagree with this and have set out in the following paragraphs the legislation and rules that govern charges.

 

The legislation that permits persons charged with the execution of distress warrants to recover their fees can be found at s.76(2) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980, taken together with relevant rules of court. The relevant court rules for civil sums (so those which are not fines) are the Magistrates' Courts Rules 1981 (rule 54), and for fines it is now the Criminal Procedure Rules 2013 Part 52. Rule 52.8(2) and (5), which make clear that extra sums payable in connection with the execution of the warrant must be paid if the warrant is to cease to have effect. Until they are, the warrant is effective regardless of whether the fine itself has been paid (see in particular r.52.8(5)©.

 

 

In JWB Group Ltd v Ministry of Justice [2012] EWCA civ 8 the Court of Appeal clearly indicated that the costs of recovery are effectively borne by the defaulter because the enforcement agent executing a warrant is entitled to take sufficient to cover not only the unpaid fine but also the costs of recovery. The Court specifically referred to the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Rules in drawing its conclusion as to the nature of the means by which enforcement agents under these kinds of contracts are paid.

 

Question 7. You ask about Bailiffs discussing your debt. The companies contracted as Authorised Enforcement agents are subject to the Data Protection Act. You also add “try to obtain money from anyone but the debtor” a distress warrant orders them to obtain value of the money owed and any costs of carrying out the warrant without an explanation behind this question I am unable to comment further

 

Question 8. The contract has several references about paying money collected to HMCTS but I cannot see the relevance to a defaulter without more detail.

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Interestingly, Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunal Service have referred to the Court of Appeal case of JBW Group v The Ministry of Justice by stating as follows:

 

 

In JWB Group Ltd v Ministry of Justice [2012] EWCA civ 8 the Court of Appeal clearly indicated that the costs of recovery are effectively borne by the defaulter because the enforcement agent executing a warrant is entitled to take sufficient to cover not only the unpaid fine but also the costs of recovery. The Court specifically referred to the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Rules in drawing its conclusion as to the nature of the means by which enforcement agents under these kinds of contracts are paid

 

Crucially, the internet sites responsible for the misleading advice about the fees payable for enforcing criminal fines deceive the public by stating the following:

 

"One of Britain’s most senior judges Lord Justice Elias has confirmed there is no contractual obligation on defaulters to pay fees of the enforcement company"

 

The website will then "claim" that Lord Justice Elias made this statement himself in paragraph 38 of the Court of Appeal judgment.

 

However, this is a lie.

 

In fact, Lord Justice Elias did NOT say what is quoted at all.

 

The truth of the matter is that the comment is merely the "submission" from Mr Peter Knox who was presenting JBW Group !!!

 

As anyone reading this judgment will know....JBW Group lost the case !!!

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2012/8.html

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think this post confirms what we have all known for a very long time......bailiffs do not work for nothing and they are entitled to 'fees' (costs) if they show work has been done on the courts behalf.

 

Sadly the forum concerned never read full transcripts they declare sets a precedence they always just pick out the bits they THINK sound good.

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I have not seen a recent warrant posted, but surely it would be good practice for HMCS enforcement managers to supply a copy of the relevant legislation with the warrant, that the bailiff can provide to the person owing the fine and any enforcement costs.

 

This for example should be provided with the warrant, so the person can see what needs to happen before the warrant is not operative.

 

Criminal Procedure Rules 2013 Part 52.8

(5)The warrant no longer has effect if—

(a) there is paid to the person executing it the sum for which it was issued and any extra sum

payable in connection with its execution;

(b)those sums are offered to, but refused by, that person; or

©that person—

(i)is shown a receipt given under rule 52.3 for the sum for which the warrant was

issued, and

(ii) is paid any extra sum payable in connection with its execution.

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I have not seen a recent warrant posted, but surely it would be good practice for HMCS enforcement managers to supply a copy of the relevant legislation with the warrant, that the bailiff can provide to the person owing the fine and any enforcement costs.

 

This for example should be provided with the warrant, so the person can see what needs to happen before the warrant is not operative.

 

Criminal Procedure Rules 2013 Part 52.8

 

(5)The warrant no longer has effect if—

 

(a) there is paid to the person executing it the sum for which it was issued and any extra sum

payable in connection with its execution;

(b)those sums are offered to, but refused by, that person; or

©that person—

(i)is shown a receipt given under rule 52.3 for the sum for which the warrant was

issued, and

(ii) is paid any extra sum payable in connection with its execution.

 

.

 

 

Unclebulgaria.

 

You are absolutely right.

 

I believe that the position will be put right on 6th April when Distress Warrants will come under Schedule 12 of TCE and accordingly, will attract the same fees as other popular 'government' debts such as Liability Orders for unpaid council tax and warrants for unpaid parking charge notices.

 

Instead of Collectica etc being able to charge £85 at 'pre-enforcement' stage they will be able to charge a lesser fee of £75. However, instead of being able to charge £215 at 'enforcement stage' the fee will increase to £235.

 

However, I have many copies of Further Steps Notices where they CLEARLY state that if the amount in default is not paid to the court that a Distress Warrant may be issued and passed to bailiffs to enforce and that this will incur fees up to £300.

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Or written on the further steps notice perhaps

 

 

josephbloggs

 

The copies of Further Steps Notices that I have do in fact make it clear that if the amount in default is not paid to the court within the time specified in the FSN that a Distress Warrant may be issued and passed to bailiffs to enforce and that fees of up to £300 would also become payable.

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The JBW v Ministry of Justice Court of Appeal Judgment is a significantly important 'landmark' ruling and its importance cannot be underestimated.

 

Earlier this evening I had a series of email exchanges with a close friend (and neighbour) who is a retired Judge and it was explained to me that particular attention should be given to paragraphs 11 through to 21 and in particular; paragraphs 19, 20 and 21.

 

I was also reminded of the importance of paragraph 56 which is the comment from the MASTER OF THE ROLLS (who at that time was believed to be Lord Neuberger) and where he stated as follows:

 

"I have read the excellent judgment of Elias LJ in draft. He has fully set out the facts and issues, and his reasons for dismissing this appeal. I agree with those reasons".

 

The Master of the Rolls is the Head of Civil Justice, and the second most senior judicial post in England and Wales, after the Lord Chief Justice.

 

 

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2012/8.html

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Lastly,

 

I had missed a final email from my friend who explained that Mr Miller (who had made the FOI request) had greatly assisted all enforcement company by making the FOI request because; if any of the four enforcement companies were to receive complaints or writs from debtors ( or claims management companies) they need do nothing more than to respond with a copy of the HMCTS response (to the FOI) and a link to the judgment.

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The misleading information being given to the public regarding the matter of criminal fines and court fees comes from a handful of websites but more so from just two that are known about. It would seem that one poster has difficulty in understanding the response from Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunal Services and this is best demonstrated by the following comment made by that poster"

 

 

"Anyone with half a brain cell can work out that CL Miller's letter is not an FOI request at all. Neither was it sent to the Ministry of Justice, it is clearly addressed to HMCTS"

 

In fact, the truth of the matter is that Mr Miller (or Miss or Mrs) made TWO Freedom of Information requests using the popular Freedom of Information online website called: What Do They Know.

 

The first FOI request was made on 19th December and was addressed to HM Court Services.

 

The second FOI request was made on 26th December and was addressed to the Ministry of Justice.

 

On 30th December the Ministry of Justice responded to Mr Miller to advise him ( or perhaps her) that they had already received a request from him (dated 19th December).

 

Both of Mr Miller's FOI requests are freely available for the public to view on What do They Know.

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I should also mention that on What do They Know there is a further recent similar FOI request to Mr Miller's concerning the matter of bailiff fees for enforcing criminal fines from a person named J Longhurst and there are of course many other FOI regarding bailiff fees addressed to various local authorities etc.

 

What is very co-incidental is that both Mr CL Miller and J Longhurst have posted online comments to other posters to suggest that they visit a particular website for 'help'.

 

In the case of J Longhurst the comments are: 'Check this site out'.....'Take a look'........ 'Take a Browse'.....'This website will help"

 

No prizes for guessing which websites both Mr Miller and J Longhurst 'recommended'.

 

Very odd.

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Lastly, anyone making an FOI request really should view What do They Know and they will be surprised to see that many 'FOI' requests are rejected by the relevant government body. There is a simple reason for this:

 

It is important to be aware that FOI requests allow members of the public and organisations the right of access to all types of 'recorded information' that is held by (for instance) the Ministry of Justice or a local authority. In the case of MoJ/HMCTS this 'recorded information' could be (for example) a request for a copy of the Contract between HM Courts and the relevant bailiff companies (which is already in the public domain) or for a copy of the HMCTS Forced Entry Protocol, which is also already in the public domain and is exhibited as a STICKY on this site.

 

In the case of Mr Miller's Freedom of Information request, he did NOT ask for copies of 'recorded information'. Instead, he asked general questions about opinions etc. It is for this reason that his request would have been forwarded to the Ministerial Correspondence Unit (MCU) and would be processed by them as 'Official Correspondence'

 

It is for this precise reason that I had entitled this thread:

 

Magistrate Court FINES and Bailiff fees...An official response from HMCTS

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SuferO1

 

My pleasure. It is vitally important that members of the public are given the correct advice. In the long run this will save them being led into taking hopeless legal action that has no chance whatsoever of success.

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SuferO1

 

My pleasure. It is vitally important that members of the public are given the correct advice. In the long run this will save them being led into taking hopeless legal action that has no chance whatsoever of success.

 

In view of what is tt come along with those damned innterpleaders, people need to know exactly where they are. Websites that claim to offer an easy way out are not helpful at all.

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The bailiff: A 12th Century solution re-branded as Enforcement Agents for the 21st Century to seize and sell debtors goods as before Oh so Dickensian!

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Brassnecked

 

As you will know I have been VERY vocal on the matter of Interpleaders ( and I have also written an article in a trade journal about the problems that will be encountered by this inclusion.

 

I can assure you that I will not give up my argument. I am holding back on recommendations as I understand that the subject is currently being considered by the Civil Procedure Rule committee. There should be a further update next week.

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Brassnecked

 

As you will know I have been VERY vocal on the matter of Interpleaders ( and I have also written an article in a trade journal about the problems that will be encountered by this inclusion.

 

I can assure you that I will not give up my argument. I am holding back on recommendations as I understand that the subject is currently being considered by the Civil Procedure Rule committee. There should be a further update next week.

 

We must be thankful that you have an input into procedure and the the people implementing these changes, surely they can now see what chaos and carnage these interpleaders may bring.

We could do with some help from you.

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The bailiff: A 12th Century solution re-branded as Enforcement Agents for the 21st Century to seize and sell debtors goods as before Oh so Dickensian!

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Brassnecked.

 

When I have an update about Interpleaders I will make sure to start a new thread.

Thanks TT

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The bailiff: A 12th Century solution re-branded as Enforcement Agents for the 21st Century to seize and sell debtors goods as before Oh so Dickensian!

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Over the past few days I have received 3 similar questions on the same subject and it would seem that some people may be under the wrong impression about a clause in the HMCS Contract under the heading of Set Off (paragraph 13.1).

 

As confirmed in paragraph 14 of the JBW v Ministry of Justice judgment, under the Contracts the bailiff companies are also required to enforce arrests pursuant to financial warrants and breach of community warrants. For enforcing these warrants, each company are PAID a fixed fee by the Ministry of Justice (through the Court Service). In other words, the debtor is not charged a fee.

 

For ‘accounting purposes” instead of the Ministry of Justice actually raising a cheque ( or other payment method) to the bailiff companies to reimburse them for the fixed agreed fee for enforcing the above warrants, each company are permitted to DEDUCT the amount due (from MoJ) from any sum that they ( the bailiff companies ) are due to pay over to the Ministry of Justice.

 

This is outlined under the heading of Set-Off in paragraph 13.1 of the Contract.

 

It would seem that some people are under the (wrong) impression that the Ministry of Justice pay the bailiff companies for enforcing all types of warrants. Not true.

 

The truth of the matter is that the Ministry of Justice pay each enforcement company a fixed fee for enforcing ARRESTS pursuant to financial warrants and breach of community warrants.

 

In relation to Distress Warrants for unpaid court fines, the bailiff company are permitted to charge a fee to the debtor.

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