Blog analytics show that among the most visited pages on this site by what I assume are non legally minded viewers are those concerning entry warrants by utility companies or, as often is the case, by bailiffs appointed by them.
As a newbie magistrate I was concerned at the rubber stamping of such applications without so much as a cursory inspection of the warrants` terms or inquiry in any individual case. To a certain extent that situation has improved and more of my colleagues are taking an inquisitorial role in their questioning of such applications. There is no doubt that since the requirement to send out “human rights” letters many utility companies consider that there is no other investigation required on their part prior to an application to install a pre payment meter for those who have an outstanding debt. Searches here will produce many previous posts on this subject. I had thought that the “message” was beginning to get through to the companies and their representatives; this court applies the principles enshrined in the “Good Practice Guide” for utility companies. I have been over optimistic.
A bailiff before our bench not so long ago was simply that; a bailiff. Unlike the companies who employ their own staff to make application and who have visited every address on their list of warrants this person had absolutely no knowledge of any individual case except that some were domestic and some commercial and that each owed a certain amount which in one case was less that £150. She had no knowledge of when any previous payment had been made, denied that a person opposing in person a warrant being applied for on the grounds that she was making arranged payments to clear her account had indeed been on a payment arrangement scheme, All she had to support her applications was an address, sometimes without an occupant’s name and an uncorroborated outstanding amount. In addition the warrants` wording was such that an application to cut off supply not exclusively on health and safety grounds was included. After some brief discussion we scored through the offending words where required and returned unsigned about half the applications.
I would hope that colleagues throughout the country are being thoughtful enough about individuals` rights to be strong enough to consider carefully such warrants even in the face of some legal advisors` impatience to get on with the morning`s list.