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Magistrate Court Fines...Distress Warrants/Warrants of Control....Official response from HMCTS

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One of the most common enquiries that we receive relates to the subject of Magistrate Court fines and whether or not the bailiff/enforcement agent is required to have in his possession a copy of the distress warrant/warrant of control.

 

In almost all cases; the confusion arises from incorrect (and misleading) information on a small number of websites heavily connected to the Freeman on the Land or other such movements. These websites frequently ‘claim’ that companies enforcing magistrate court fines create ‘doctored or counterfeit’ warrants and debtors are encouraged by the websites to pay a fee to download a template letter which they are told to send to various Magistrates Courts around the country.

 

In November a debtor wrote to HMCTS regarding this subject. He received a lengthly response from them which he posted on a forum in November.

 

The following is taken from the HMCTS reply. For ease of reference, in post number two I have broken down their response into separate headings.

 

In this post I have extracted from HMCTS's response the relevant case law:

 

"It is not necessary to generate a distress warrant at the time of its issue; the relevant details can be produced (and provided to the debtor) subsequent to its issue (or indeed subsequent to its execution) but such relevant details should be recorded at the time of issue"

 

 

"Pursuant to section 125A of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 where a warrant (whether a warrant of arrest, commitment, detention or distress) is executed by a civilian enforcement officer, a written statement indicating the name of the officer, the authority by which he is employed and that he is authorised in the prescribed manner to execute warrants, must, on demand of the person arrested, committed or detained or against whom distress is levied, be shown to him as soon as practicable. Section 125B applies to approved enforcement agencies and makes similar provision".

 

 

"Part 52 of the Criminal Procedure Rules 2010, rules 52.7 and 52.8, set out the procedure for the execution of magistrates’ court distress warrants. The distress warrant must identify the person to whom it is directed, the person against whom it was issued, the sum for which it was issued and the reason that sum is owed, the court or fines officer who issued it and the court office for the court or fines officer who issued it (rule 52.7(1)".

 

 

"A person to whom a warrant is directed must record on it the date and time at which it is received (rule 52.7(2)). Pursuant to rule 52.8(2), the person executing the warrant must explain to the debtor the order or decision that the warrant was issued to enforce, the sum for which the warrant was issued and any extra sum payable in connection with the execution of the warrant. In addition, if he has the warrant with him, he must show it to the debtor or if the debtor asks, arrange for the debtor to see the warrant, if that person does not have it and show the debtor the written statement of that person’s authority required by section 125A or 125B of the 1980 Act"

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The following is taken from the HMCTS reply.

 

For ease of reference, I have broken down their response into separate headings:

 

When is a distress warrant/warrant of control 'generated'?

 

"It is not necessary to generate a distress warrant at the time of its issue; the relevant details can be produced (and provided to the debtor) subsequent to its issue (or indeed subsequent to its execution) but such relevant details should be recorded at the time of issue"

 

Who issues the distress warrant/warrant of control?

 

"Designated Fines Officers have the power to issue Distress Warrants/Warrants of Control under schedule 5 of the Courts Act 2003, a court hearing is not required for this sanction to be issued".

 

Is the bailiff/enforcement agent required to have the warrant in his possession?

 

"It is not necessary for the CEO or the AEA to have the distress warrant in his possession when levying the distress. The legislation simply requires a written statement to be shown to the debtor on demand. In addition, the CrimPR requires arrangements to be made for the debtor to see the warrant if he so requests".

 

Does the distress warrant/warrant of control need to be a paper document?

 

"The references in the above CrimPR to a “warrant” are not necessarily to a paper document, but can include an electronic version".

 

Does a warrant need to be produced?

 

"It is not necessary for a formal “warrant” to be produced; what is of**importance is that specific information must be recorded, by some means, at the time the warrant is issued. In particular, the legal basis on which the warrant is issued (for example, a record of the decision authorising the issue of a warrant (made by the court or the fines officer) and when that decision was made). In addition, the information required by CrimPR 52.7(1) should be recorded".

 

Recording the date and time that the warrant was received.

 

"The reference to the CEO or AEA recording on the warrant the date and time at which it is received (rule 52.7(2) can be satisfied by electronic means. Assuming the request to execute is sent to the CEO or AEA electronically there will be an automatic electronic record of when it was received".

Requesting to see the distress warrant/warrant of control.

 

"As regards the position where the debtor asks to see the warrant, what rule 52.8(2) of the CrimPR envisages is that the debtor will be taken to the relevant office and shown the relevant details on the computer screen. Alternatively, a copy of the electronic data held can be printed and provided to the debtor or the details replicated in some other documentary form (whether it be entitled a “warrant” or not).

 

"What is of importance, is, as stated above, that the requisite information is already held. That information can then be subsequently shown to the debtor/replicated when a request is made by the debtor".

  • Confused 1

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So all the alleged 'fake', 'false' or 'invalid' warrants often mentioned in the past are actually entirely genuine. It is thus quite possible that an enforcement company could produce a 'copy of the warrant' on headed company paper. The ones most frequently referred to on other sites are those by Marstons. It appears from what you say above that these 'warrants' are absolutely genuine and there is no need for a court seal, a 'wet signature' or even a physical piece of paper to exist.

 

Is this a correct understanding?

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few more bits i found that may be of use to people...

 

In the event a debtor claims that their name is spelt incorrectly on the Warrant/Liability order

The criminal procedure rules 2012, Part 52, 7 (3) (a) (b)

Stipulates

A warrant that contains an error is not invalid, as long as—

it was issued in respect of a lawful decision by the court or fines officer; and

it contains enough information to identify that decision.

 

 

If told The warrant/Liability order requires a “wet ink” signature

As stated in the Magistrates' Courts rules 1981. The rules only require signatures (of any sort) of forms prescribed. Even if it were required, Rule 109 (3) states “Where a signature is required on a form or warrant other than arrest, remand or commitment warrant, an electronic signature incorporated into the document will satisfy this requirement". Thus a pre-printed signature on the form will suffice.


None of the beliefs held by "Freemen on the land" have ever been supported by any judgments or verdicts in any criminal or civil court cases.

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If told The warrant/Liability order requires a “wet ink” signature

As stated in the Magistrates' Courts rules 1981. The rules only require signatures (of any sort) of forms prescribed. Even if it were required, Rule 109 (3) states “Where a signature is required on a form or warrant other than arrest, remand or commitment warrant, an electronic signature incorporated into the document will satisfy this requirement". Thus a pre-printed signature on the form will suffice.

 

This subject (of a wet-ink signature) is one that causes mayhem in Magistrates Courts ( in particular with Liability Orders hearings) with 'Freeman on the Land' supporters.

 

PS: A good post.....

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Is it just me, or do others find it disgraceful that someone can be pursued by a bailiff with no proof on them that they are entitled to carry out the instructions on the

warrant. And to add to the disgrace, it is not even necessary for the EA to produce the warrant unless asked.

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Is it just me, or do others find it disgraceful that someone can be pursued by a bailiff with no proof on them that they are entitled to carry out the instructions on the

warrant. And to add to the disgrace, it is not even necessary for the EA to produce the warrant unless asked.

 

In fact, every year there are approx 3.5 million Liability Orders pursued by bailiffs and in every single case, there is no actual 'warrants' as such !!!!

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Is it just me, or do others find it disgraceful that someone can be pursued by a bailiff with no proof on them that they are entitled to carry out the instructions on the

warrant. And to add to the disgrace, it is not even necessary for the EA to produce the warrant unless asked.

 

To be fair it is not as if they just turn up. There is a multitude of correspondence from authority and EA, some of which is required under statute which must be sent before they call, and when they do you can always to see there authorisation


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To be fair it is not as if they just turn up. There is a multitude of correspondence from authority and EA, some of which is required under statute which must be sent before they call, and when they do you can always to see there authorisation

That would be true when they get the address right. It is also worrying that EAs are often reluctant to show what authority they have to pursue that person and

what proof they have that they have the right person.

Indeed without a warrant what is their proof-a piece of paper that could have been written by any one?

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That would be true when they get the address right. It is also worrying that EAs are often reluctant to show what authority they have to pursue that person and

what proof they have that they have the right person.

Indeed without a warrant what is their proof-a piece of paper that could have been written by any one?[/quoteT

 

They have to write to someone seven days before they are allowed to visit, if it is the wrong person they have time to say so, if it is the wrong person when they visit they just say so then and show proof.

 

The whole "show me your warrant" thing was an idea which was started on the internet and has never legally held water imo. There is no provision for it in the magistrates court act in any case.


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The intention was for the debtor to be able to ask to see the warrant, not necessarily at that exact point in time. The bailiffs (now EA's) have to allow sight of it in some form, whether that be printed off, electronic or whatever.

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To be fair it is not as if they just turn up. There is a multitude of correspondence from authority and EA, some of which is required under statute which must be sent before they call, and when they do you can always to see there authorisation

 

This is the subject of a query that I answered only a few moments ago.

 

The fact are these:

 

If a debtor has a parking ticket, they should receive three statutory notices from the council before the matter is referred to bailiffs. The first will be a Notice to Owner giving the debtor the option of paying at a reduced rate (50%) or appealing. If payment or an appeal is not forthcoming a Charge Certificate will follow advising that the debt is being registered as a debt at Northampton Court. A further 'final' notice (an Order for Recovery) is then sent by Northampton Court advising that a warrant is to be issued.

 

With a Magistrate Court fine before the matter can go to court the debtor should have received a visit from a TV Enquiry Agent (in the case of TV Licensing), a letter from the relevant police authority (in the case of speeding) or a letter from DVLA (in the case of MOT or insurance). A summons would be issued and if the debtor had not attended the hearing two Statutory documents would be issued by the Magistrates Court.....a Notice of Fine/Collection Order advising that that a fine has been issued and detailing that a Victims Surcharge (of £20) and additional costs have been applied. If payment is not forthcoming, then the last Statutory Notice (a Further Steps Notice) is sent to the debtor warning that a Warrant of Control will be issued.

 

In the case of council tax, the council will write to advise that payments are late. A further letter must be sent to warn that a Liability Order will be issued. Despite the fact that the regulations have removed the right to send a '14 day' 'letter most councils are continuing to send such a letter. Once again, the notices from the council are statutory.

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Thank you for that Bailiff Advice.

However I still find it disturbing that an EA can turn up at someones door with nothing to prove that they are entitled to carry out the instructions of a warrant

that they are not obliged to have a copy of, even if that person is aware that bailiffs will be calling. And doubly worse when that someone is the wrong person

with no idea what is going on and the bailiff appears to have nothing with them to confirm whether they have the right person.

 

Quite bizarre.

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Thank you for that Bailiff Advice.

However I still find it disturbing that an EA can turn up at someones door with nothing to prove that they are entitled to carry out the instructions of a warrant

that they are not obliged to have a copy of, even if that person is aware that bailiffs will be calling. And doubly worse when that someone is the wrong person

with no idea what is going on and the bailiff appears to have nothing with them to confirm whether they have the right person.

 

Quite bizarre.

 

Potentially a breach of ECHR, but it would never be tested. It would be swept under the carpet and sorry lessons will be learned would be uttered if the bailiff minus warrant, well it was a pdf on his I-Phone,, fetched up at the wrong No 25 as in Acacia Avenue, but should have been at 25 Acacia Grove told Mr Smith there his car was impounded when it was Mr Jones the warrant was for, then Mr Smith had a heart attack and was ambulanced to hospital.

 

In that circumstance could tyhe bailiff be done for GBH, or if Mr Smith had died, manslaughter, as he turned up at wrong address and ignored the protestations of the innocent third party as the bailiff breached DPA telling Mr Smith all about the debt and the £1500 he wanted like right now, or the car is towed?

 

Far fetched yes, but entirely possible under the dystopian Enforcement System.


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[ATTACH=CONFIG]54812[/ATTACH][ATTACH=CONFIG]54813[/ATTACH]

 

In my opening post I have referred to a letter that a debtor had received from HMCTS. It is important to mention the background to the letter.

 

The debtor had been informed that bailiffs cannot charge fees for enforcing Magistrate court fines and accordingly, he had been advised to pay the amount only of the court fine (minus bailiff fees) to the Magistrate Court. It would seem from his post that he had been led to believe that the warrant is fake and like many other people the debtor had been encouraged to send endless correspondence to the Courts seeking a response about the 'warrant'.

 

The reason for these letter being that the Distress Warrant exhibited by the Court states the figure that the warrant had been issued for, and that the 'Distress Warrant (or Warrant of Control) that has in the past been provided by companies such as Marston Group has a different figure (which includes the bailiff fees). I have provided examples above.

 

HMCTS receive many of these letters and if I was to believe what is written on the internet, complaints are also being made to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Members of Parliament and even the Secretary of State !!!

 

It is very well known that the allegation of 'fake' or 'bogus' warrants' originate from just one person and that same person is also responsible for drafting the endless letters that are frequently arriving at government offices.

 

I will be able to provide a definitive answer as to why both 'warrants' have a different amount later in the day but in the meantime, given the extreme seriousness of this subject it would be easier if I were to provide some background. I will do this in a separate post.

 

PS: If either of the documents cannot be read I will ask somebody for help in a few moments.

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As mentioned above, complaints about supposed 'bogus' and 'fake' warrants are frequently being made to HMCTS, Members of Parliament, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and even the Secretary of State. The allegations originate from one person and have been the subject of banned or moderated posts on far too many occasions and the subject (of 'fake' or 'bogus' warrants) started on this forum as long ago as 2009 with an individual who had been posting on the forum at that time under the user name of Happy Contrails.

 

The following thread from 2011 provides sufficient background so that viewers can see where the allegations of 'fake' warrants arose.

 

For ease of reference I have provided notes for each of the four pages:

 

Page 1 is dated December 2011 and where Happy Contrails exhibits a copy of an FOI request that he made to the court about the charging of fees for enforcing Magistrate Court fines.

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/printthread.php?t=330478&pp=20&page=1

 

 

Page 2: This is a debate about the court form EX345 and where Happy Contrails has difficulty grasping the difference between a Civilian Enforcement Officer and an Approved Enforcement Agent.

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/printthread.php?t=330478&pp=20&page=2

 

Page 3 is interesting as I had provided (as Tomtubby) the actual wording on the ‘warrant of distress’. As you will read Happy Contrails ‘claims’ that he too has possession of a ‘warrant of distress’. He makes excuses as to why he cannot exhibit a copy.

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/printthread.php?t=330478&pp=20&page=3

 

Page 4 (the last page) is where Happy Contrails ‘claims’ that the warrants are ‘doctored’. He also claimed that defendants may have been ‘defrauded’ and that ‘apparently’ the Serious Fraud Office Bribery and Anti Corruption Unit would be looking to investigate. The moderators of the site removed those posts.

 

You will see that I have also outlined the reason why Parliament had not set in legislation the actual amount of fees that could be charged.

 

My post at 9.45am on 11th January 2012 outlines the position very clearly..

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/printthread.php?t=330478&pp=20&page=4

 

'Happy Contrails' left the forum the following day (12th January 2012). He stated elsewhere that he had been banned.

 

Since that time, he continues to make identical claims (on his own website and forum) that warrants are 'bogus' or 'fake' and that bailiffs cannot charge fees for enforcing a Magistrate Court fine.

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A further problem for debtors is that they are frequently told that the amount that should be paid by them when a bailiff writes or visits is the sum that "adjudged to be paid"

 

Again this advice is incorrect. The 'sum adjudged' means the sum that had been imposed by the court and is the sum BEFORE a warrant is issued (the wording having been amended under the Collection of Fines (Final Scheme) Order 2006.

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I hope these are the documents you wanted. Two appear OK. I'll retry the other two in a minute - I don't seem able to delete the ones which have not worked, sorry.

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I hope these are the documents you wanted. Two appear OK. I'll retry the other two in a minute - I don't seem able to delete the ones which have not worked, sorry.

 

Thank you very much indeed. I was trying to upload the copies using my trusted MacBook but without success.

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The actual "wording' for a Distress Warrant was introduced into legislation in 1981 and changes have been made to the wording since that time. The official form number is 48 and one such change in 2004 was to allow for such warrants to be enforced by Approved Enforcement Agencies. I have full details if necessary.

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Is there any chance of me emailing a pdf to site team to insert into my post above instead of the attachments which are there? The site uploader doesn't want to do it for some reason. I just need an email address!

 

Thanks

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The following is taken from the HMCTS reply.

 

Is the bailiff/enforcement agent required to have the warrant in his possession?

 

"It is not necessary for the CEO or the AEA to have the distress warrant in his possession when levying the distress. The legislation simply requires a written statement to be shown to the debtor on demand. In addition, the CrimPR requires arrangements to be made for the debtor to see the warrant if he so requests".

[/indent]

 

As confirmed by HMCTS the bailiff/enforcement agent does not have to have a copy of the distress warrant in his possession when levying distress and that 'the legislation simply requires 'a written statement' to be shown to the debtor'.

 

Secondly, HMCTS also state (under the heading of : Requesting to see the distress warrant that the legal position regarding viewing the warrant is that:

 

"The debtor may either be taken to the relevant office and shown details on the computer screen"

 

or alternatively:

 

"A copy of the electronic data held can be printed and provided to the debtor or that details replicated in some other documentary form (whether it be entitled "warrant" or not"

 

What is clear is that the 'warrant' from HMCTS that is displayed is simply a copy of the 'electronic data' displaying the amount 'adjudged to be paid' and to which the 'distress warrant' had been issued. No more...no less.

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In Professor Beatson's Green Paper in 2001 (issued by the Lord Chancellor's Department) it had been recommended by him in para 32(5) that:

 

All forms of distress should be subject to uniform requirements regarding the information to be furnished to the debtor. On entering the premises and before starting to take legal control of goods, the distrainor should be required to provide the debtor with a document stating:

 

(a) the statutory liability or judgment which has given rise to the debt,

 

(b) the legislative provision authorising the distress,

 

© the amount for which the distress warrant was issued,

 

(d) the charges made in relation to it,

 

(e) how payment can be made,

 

(f) that the goods will be sold if the debt and costs are not paid, and

 

(g) outline any rights of appeal or avenues of complaint the debtor may have.

 

The two 'Distress Warrants' from Marston Group are NOT Distress Warrants at all. Instead, they are 'written statements' (as permitted by legislation) and clearly seem to have taken some of Professor Beatson's recommendations into consideration.

 

The amount demanded will of course differ from the 'electronic record' from the Magistrate Court because bailiff fees have been included (as permitted).

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Page 4 (the last page) is where Happy Contrails ‘claims’ that the warrants are ‘doctored’. He also claimed that defendants may have been ‘defrauded’ and that ‘apparently’ the Serious Fraud Office Bribery and Anti Corruption Unit would be looking to investigate. The moderators of the site removed those posts.

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/printthread.php?t=330478&pp=20&page=4

 

It is true to say that 'Happy Contrails' he was not pleased and he left the forum on 12th January 2012.

 

Since that time he continues to make the identical claims about warrants. He is wrong.

 

I would like to make one comment if I may.

 

Not only has this individual continued to make identical claims about these warrants but more seriously, is that after being banned from this forum (as Happy Contrails) (and confirmed by him) on 12th January 2012, he has spent the past three years waging a shocking hate campaign against this forum....the forum owner.....some of the posters on here... but more commonly..... against me personally.

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The last thing they would want is someone who understands the subject and is able to debunk them. Hardly surprising that you tare targeted

Best ignore, sooner or later one of the regulators will get their fingers out and shut that forum down, until then, unfortunately it is a case of buyer beware as far as the good old general public is concerned.


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