The enforcement profession fights back

Julie Green-JonesNo doubt many will be aware of the recent sensationalized media stories about bailiffs portrayed in the News of the World and on the BBC.

Both articles were inaccurate, misleading and distorted, written to give a one-sided, biased picture. In both incidences, factual statements with ample evidence were made by the profession to the journalists, who unfairly but typically, chose not to use them, leaving the general public with an imprecise and untrue version of events.

The recent News of the World article has been referred to the Press Complaints Commission by the Enforcement Agency concerned.

The enforcement profession has had enough and the Enforcement Services Association (ESA), the Association of Civil Enforcement Agents (ACEA) and the High Court Enforcement Officers Association (HCEOA) have pledged to stand together to fight back.

We have had enough of unfair, one-sided and highly biased articles that detract from the good work our enforcement officers do.

The profession collects millions of pounds each year to help sustain the British Economy. We are responsible for recovering in excess of £400 million in unpaid council tax each year (equivalent to the annual salary of 20,000 nurses) which would be otherwise added to the council tax bills of those that do pay.

We recover £170 million of unpaid business rates, that would, uncollected become a burden on businesses that do pay.

We are responsible for collecting monies on behalf of small businesses, helping to ensure that they have regular cashflow, enforcing unpaid employment tribunal awards on behalf of wronged employees.

We collect £50 million of unpaid child maintenance from non-resident parents, and unpaid criminal fines which make them a realistic alternative to much more expensive custodial sentences.

We are responsible for keeping the buses in London moving by enforcing unpaid bus lane contraventions and keeping traffic flowing by enforcing unpaid congestion charges and other road traffic debt.

Misleading, distorted and untrue tabloid stories unfairly undermine public confidence in a vital public service, which is why the profession is fighting back.

All too often, the story is made to fit the cliché rather than the facts, and the perpetuation of that cliché does a disservice to debtors and creditors as much as it does to the enforcement profession.

The profession intends to set up an expert working group to develop a media policy and protocol to dispel untrue and misleading media reports and refer false and inaccurate reporting to the Press Complaints Commission.

This group will also be tasked with attempting to positively promote the profession and the difficult job it carries out.

Julie Green-Jones, chairman, Rossendales.