The Independent newspaper report that telecoms giant BT are poised to win the contract to administer court fines and compensation, in an unnecessary, damaging and much-delayed privatisation process imposed by the government.
Although HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has improved collection rates (despite falling numbers of staff) over the past five years, the government has decided that big business is needed. PCS report that last year their members working in HMCTS collected more than £518m in fines, penalties and confiscation orders, while the outstanding balance of financial impositions reduced by £26.7m (5 per cent) in the year.
The process of selecting a winner in the tendering process has been heavily delayed, with the award date still unclear.
There are serious concerns about the privatisation of court fines and compensation, especially in regard to giving a private company access to people’s personal details, including addresses. Victims of crime who are owed compensation could see their personal information passed to debt collectors under these reforms.
The private debt collection industry is poorly regulated, such that collectors often misrepresent their powers and intimidate people in their own homes. PCS note examples reported to them of children being threatened with having their toys taken away and their mother imprisoned. As noted in The Independent, the Citizens Advice Bureaux report that it received 25,000 complaints about bailiffs behaviour in 2013.
PCS report that private bailiffs employed in this area at present have a collection rate of only about one in five. Many of the fines they fail to collect are returned as uneconomical for them to enforce and are then retrieved by court staff.
See Leftly, M. (2015) BT Poised to Land Bailiff Contract to Collect Billions in Unpaid Fines”, The Independent, 16 February.
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