The bailiffs have turned up at my address to take property from me, I want the police to stop them
The Constabulary's involvement with regard to the policing of bailiffs as with any other civil dispute - is to prevent a breach of the peace from occurring, or to attend an incident when a specific criminal offence has occurred or is likely to occur.
These instances will largely be confined to: disputes by debtors over a bailiff's entry to their premises when executing a warrant or liability order; the lawful conduct of the bailiff when entering and inside the premises; and any criminal/illegal activity committed by either a bailiff or debtor.
When first called to a scene, or if attending a scene with a bailiff by prior arrangement, the police will check:
- The bailiff's identity and status,
- The authority on which the bailiff has or seeks to enter the premises; including any relevant documentation which gives the bailiff the power to enter the premises, The fact that the bailiff has located the correct premises or correct debtor.
If a bailiff or court officer is unable to provide evidence of identity, status, authority or power, and is causing a breach of the peace or committing an offence, the police constable should prevent the bailiff from entering the premises, or if already on the premises, should remove the bailiff/court officer at once.
If the bailiff were hindered in any way whilst acting lawfully and reasonably in the course of their duties, then that would constitute a breach of the peace by those causing the obstruction and may render the householder liable to arrest.
Bailiffs can take goods from outside the premises such as a debtor's vehicle on a driveway (if they have a clamping order), or garden equipment.
The basic rule for bailiffs is that entry should be without force, thus they have the right to peaceful entry only. There is no legal requirement by a debtor to let a bailiff into their home.
To gain peaceful entry, the bailiff can walk through an open door, open an unlocked door, climb through an open window, and even climb over a wall or fence, provided no damage is caused in so doing.
The bailiff cannot, however, break open a closed but unfastened window or door, open a closed latched window, or use a locksmith to open a door. Use of a landlord's key is also illegal. They cannot force their way past someone at a door, or wedge their foot in a doorway to prevent the door being closed. The protection against forced entry extends to all buildings physically attached to the living premises.
Reasonable Force may be used to gain entry in these circumstances only:
- A bailiff is executing a magistrates distress warrant for non-payment of fines.
- A bailiff has once previously entered a debtor's home peacefully, or was forcibly ejected by the occupier after gaining lawful entry, and is returning to levy the good
- The officer is a High Court Enforcement Officer and the premises to be entered with force are separate non-domestic premises, which are not connected to the living accommodation, e.g. a workshop or barn. Or, the premises are a third party's house where goods have been taken to avoid seizure by a bailiff. A demand for entry should always be made first.
It is not the responsibility of the Police to act as an arbitrator between the bailiff and the debtor, nor to determine the rights and wrongs of the issue, and in no way should an officer assist in the seizure of any goods.