Author Topic: SHOULD BAILIFFS BE ALLOWED TO USE ANPR?  (Read 4613 times)

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SHOULD BAILIFFS BE ALLOWED TO USE ANPR?
« on: 19 December, 2013, 01:13:30 PM »
SHOULD BAILIFFS BE ALLOWED TO USE ANPR?

ON 27 September 2013 the Cabinet members Eric Pickles and Patrick McLoughlin issued a surprise joint press statement on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and  Department for Transport (DfT) which announced a series of proposals for consultation to reform parking rules in order to support local shops and help with the ‘cost of living’. (“DCLG wants your views on parking
strategies”, pp34-36).

The enforcement industry was concerned to read that one of the proposals outlined was to ‘stop  unacceptable parking fine collection practices”. As always the ‘devil is in the detail’, and where better to look than the Conservative Party briefing paper: this is extremely detailed and it is clear that both DCLG and DfT have spent a significant amount of time examining the effect of parking on the public and the use of CCTV, and the paper provided a great deal of background evidence to support the statistics.

Page 6 of the document (available at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/l ocal-authority-parking) again states the intention to ‘stop unacceptable and aggressive parking fine collections practices” and further, that DCLG and DfT would “review where similar guidance should be produced to stop the ‘aggressive use of bailiffs’ and other ‘unacceptable collection practices’ for ‘parking fine enforcement’”. In support of these statements, the briefing paper referred to item 29 which was a reference to a Daily Mail article dated 29 August 2013 entitled: “Motorists being chased by Bounty Hunters” and refers to the way in which bailiffs “are roaming the streets” in ANPR-equipped vehicles to find cars with unpaid parking tickets against them.

Given that the press release had been released on 27 September many local authorities and enforcement  companies were probably of the opinion that this press release was merely to boost publicity, given that the Conservative Party conference was taking place the following day. Well they were certainly proved wrong
on 6 December when DfT and DCLG published the joint consultation paper, and there can be little doubt that parking enforcement by CCTV is under the spotlight.

For the enforcement industry, their focus of attention was to examine the consultation carefully for any reference to the ‘unacceptable collection practice’ of the use of ANPR vehicles to collect unpaid road traffic debts. Whilst there is no specific mention of ANPR it would be a tragic mistake if this ‘collection practice’ is not curbed or better still banned all together, in my view.

Why is bailiff enforcement by ANPR wrong? Firstly, bailiff enforcement by ANPR equipped vehicles is exclusively used only for pursuing an unpaid penalty charge notice (PCN). If the PCN remains unpaid, the local authority will register the debt with the Traffic Enforcement Centre and apply for permission to issue
a warrant of execution.

Each year, since 1995, approximately 1.3 million such warrants are issued. Crucially, the warrant will state upon it the name and address of the registered keeper, the PCN number, location of contravention and the vehicle registration number of the car that had been driven by the keeper on the date of the contravention.
Each week the bailiff company will provide their ANPR operators (many of whom are self-employed bailiffs) with a memory stick containing information on thousands of warrants of execution.

The bailiff will input this into his onboard computer and the bailiff will simply drive around the streets of London, or elsewhere, supermarket car parks and large shopping outlets (such as Bluewater in Kent) in the hope of detecting the numberplate that matches that on the warrant of execution. The bailiff is not seeking to locate the debtor and instead is seeking to seize the vehicle that had been driven by the keeper on the date of the contravention.

This ‘collection practice’ has been ongoing for approximately 10 years. Many times the vehicle has been sold and it is a daily occurrence for new owners to be forced to pay astronomical costs to a bailiff to avoid his  vehicle being seized in order to pay the previous owner’s debt!

When parking became decriminalised in 1995, the DfT issued the ‘Operational Guidance’ to local authorities.
Astonishingly, the guidance stated that bailiffs were permitted to change the address on a warrant if the debtor had moved address. Thirteen years later in 2008 the DfT updated the ‘Operational Guidance’ and
Lord Lucas raised a parliamentary question in the House of Lords questioning the legal basis for bailiffs to amend the address (on a warrant).

Lord Bassam of Brighton responded to confirm that there was indeed no legal basis to allow a bailiff to  amend the address, and consequently an amendment was introduced to section 75.7 of the Civil Procedure Rules. This provides that warrants may only be re-issued in exceptional cases where the debtor moved address after (and not before) the date on which the warrant had been issued.

Given that for 13 years bailiffs had been given a ‘free rein’ to amend addresses on warrants, it was inevitable that the enforcement industry would be seeking ways in which to ‘get around’ this amendment. This is simply achieved by way of enforcing the debt by ANPR.

Bailiffs continued to ignore the strict warrant re-issue procedures, and in 2011 a working group made up of the Ministry of Justice, British Parking Association, Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC), London Councils, representatives from bailiff companies and local authorities was set up. The purpose of the working group was to address the matter of warrants of execution, and in March 2011 they issued a Technical Information Note to all local authorities reminding them of the strict re-issue procedures which stated that:

TEC is aware that some bailiffs use ANPR cameras to identity the location of the vehicle that is the subject of a warrant and to verify the present address of the owner. If new information about the address of the subject of the warrant is verified then TEC must (their emphasis) be advised as above. TEC reminds everyone that failure to follow the correct procedures will invalidate the enforcement and potentially expose the authority to Judicial Review.

Given that a bailiff may only enforce a warrant of execution at the debtor’s current address, it is  inconceivable that enforcing a PCN by way of an ANPR equipped vehicle can be legal? A spokesman for the AA is quoted as saying that “if you are patrolling the streets with a camera equipped essentially to lasso a car it amounts to being a bounty hunter” and that this “is sinister”.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said that: “What a house of horrors the parking system has become and it is time for a redesign.”

It is indeed time for change and I do hope that the DfT and DCLG ban the use of ANPR vehicles to enforce warrants of execution. Finally, there is a further very serious problem with ANPR-equipped vehicles and in relation to their use in joint Metropolitan Police and bailiff ‘roadside operations’. I will write about this next
month.

Sheila Harding is the founder of Phoenix Consulting
phoenix.consulting@btconnect.com

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Source - Pages 10 and 11 of attached

 


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