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Bailiff Advice

Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) decision....Mental health and bailiff enforcement.

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Unfortunately, many people consider that because, they have problems with mental health that a local authority should not pursue them for road traffic debts or refer cases to bailiffs. The following recent decision from the Local Government Ombudsman is therefore of importance:

 

PS: The following is a short version of the LGO's decision. Please refer to the link at the end of the post to read more.

 

 

London Borough of Hounslow.

 

 

The complaint

 

 

Mr A complains the Council harassed him and discriminated against him by using bailiffs to collect a debt relating to two unpaid Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) when it already had notice of his mental health problems. Mr A maintains the Council should have treated him as a vulnerable adult and told the bailiffs of his condition. He seeks a refund of the enforcement costs he has paid and compensation.

 

 

What I found

 

Council parking enforcement officers issued Mr A with two PCNs. As Mr A did not pay the charges the Council followed its usual enforcement procedures to obtain payment of the PCNs and the accrued costs.

 

In February 2015, following the Council’s actions in sending out Charge Certificates to Mr A in relation to the PCNs, he wrote to the Council explaining he had mental health problems and enclosed a letter from his GP and the Jobcentre. The Council responded by advising Mr A that while his medical condition had been noted it was not accepted as mitigation to cancel the PCNs. An Order for Recovery was then issued in April for the two charges.

 

As the debt remained unpaid, the Council passed Mr A’s case on to bailiffs acting on its behalf and they wrote to him at the beginning of June. As no response was received, an enforcement agent, Mr X, attended Mr A’s property.

 

Having taken control of Mr A’s vehicle, Mr X spoke to Mr A who informed him of his mental health problems. Mr X told Mr A he had no knowledge of Mr A’s condition but declined Mr A’s request to call his office or the Council to confirm it. Instead, Mr X told Mr A he could seek legal advice. Mr A offered payment by card but made clear he believed he was doing so under duress. Mr X told Mr A it was his choice whether or not to make the payment and
Mr A paid the outstanding debt in full.

 

Mr A then made a complaint to the Council about its and the bailiffs’ lack of understanding of his illness and vulnerability and that he had been forced under duress from Mr X to make payment. Having contacted the bailiffs and sought their comments, the Council responded in August 2015 but did not uphold the complaint. It concluded Mr A’s case had been dealt with in an appropriate manner.

 

The Council confirmed it had been aware of his mental health problems but, having considered matters, decided that his particular circumstances did not warrant the cancellation of the PCNs. Because it had decided to pursue the charges, and refer his case on to enforcement agents, it did not consider it necessary to make the agents aware of Mr A’s correspondence about his mental health problems. It did not uphold his complaint.

Analysis

 

When Mr A told the Council of his mental health problems, it considered what he had said, and the evidence he had provided, but decided his condition was not sufficient mitigation to stop collection of the charges. It informed him of its decision. The merits of this decision are not open to review by the Ombudsman no matter how strongly Mr A may disagree with it.

 

I have viewed the recording of Mr X’s visit to Mr A’s property. In it Mr A tells Mr X his condition is such that the Council should be working with him to which Mr X replies he can make a payment arrangement with Mr A. He did not doubt Mr A when he was told of Mr A’s mental health problems and told him he could seek legal advice.

 

I saw nothing in Mr X’s behaviour which amounted to harassment or discrimination and he reasonably took the card payment which was offered to him by Mr A.

 

 

http://www.lgo.org.uk/decisions/transport-and-highways/parking-and-other-penalties/16-000-771

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