Magistrates Court bailiffs
Most Magistrates Courts will use private bailiff firms to collect fines by taking your goods and selling them to pay the fine. This is known as a ‘warrant of control’.
You should be given seven clear days’ notice that the bailiffs are due to visit you. This is often known as the ‘enforcement notice’. ‘Clear days’ does not include Sundays, Christmas Day or bank holidays.
The warrant of control once issued, gives the bailiffs the right to try to take control of your goods. Although, they cannot actually do this until the time limit on the notice of enforcement has run out. In practice, the bailiffs may still be able to take control of your goods as they could try to take control of them at the place you have moved them to once the time limit has passed.
The fines officer is able to recall the bailiff’s warrant to the magistrates’ court if the person with the fine is seen as ‘vulnerable’ for example you have a physical disability or a mental health condition. You will need to provide medical evidence with your request, which should be in writing to the fines officer. You should keep a copy of your letter.
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Control of goods
Goods outside of your home, such as vehicles , are at risk. Your vehicle (if you have one) should be kept in a locked garage. If you park the vehicle on your drive, it could be clamped. If you decide to park the vehicle away from your home, on a public road, you risk the vehicle being clamped and removed if the bailiff finds it.
The bailiff can only take control of goods that belong to you (the person named on the fine). If a jointly owned item belongs to you and your partner, they can take the goods, but they will only be entitled to the value of your share of the goods.
Goods of no or little value
Sometimes the goods you own are not worth enough to cover the cost of the bailiff coming back with a van to remove and sell them. In this situation they will have twelve months from the date of the enforcement notice to take control of your goods. However they are likely to agree instalments on the debt. If you do not pay, then the twelve months will start when the arrangement has been broken.
The bailiffs should not take control of goods that are worth more than you actually owe unless there is only one item that the bailiff thinks is worth taking, such as your vehicle.
If you hide your goods away (for example at another location) and the bailiffs haven’t yet been in they can apply to the court for permission to break into the place where the goods are. If the bailiffs have already been in and obtained a control of goods agreement, you will be committing an offence if you remove those goods.
Payment by instalments
Some bailiff firms are able to accept instalments on the fines outstanding, and others will only accept payment of the total amount owed. It is worth writing to the bailiffs, enclosing a budget summary and asking them whether they will accept instalment payments. Send a copy of your letter and budget summary to the magistrates’ court.
If the bailiffs will not accept the payments you are offering, save up the money to take to any hearings in the Magistrates’ Court to prove you are willing to pay.