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  • The Countdown Begins

SHOCKINGLY, it was reported that a French 12th century cleric of the Court of Phillippe of Alsace first coined the phrase “Rome, as they say, was not built in a day” – and how true that saying is, and it remains one of the well-coined powerhouse catchphrases of today.

So it is no surprise that, way back as far as 1998, the government commissioned an independent review of bailiff law by Professor Jack Beatson. The report, which was finally published in 2000, called for a single law around bailiff powers, independent regulation and abolition of distress for rent.

So many have asked the question: “Why the call for a single piece of bailiff law?” Professor Beatson identified back then that there existed 17 forms of seizure of goods governed by 59 separate forms of legislation, and I guess you can add a few more pieces of legislation to that list today.

So by the time we see the implementation of the “Taking Control of Goods Act 2013” on 6 April 2014, some 16 years would have passed us by. They say a week is a long time in politics – try being an enforcement officer awaiting change.

Put in another way, if we were able to walk non-stop for 16 years, at say 3mph, we would reach the moon and three quarters of the way back to earth during the time that past and present governments have taken to implement Professor Beatson’s recommendations. It reminds me of the Dan Hill song It's a Long Road

Since the government published its response paper Transforming Bailiff Action, Ministry of Justice Officials set up four working groups that comprised of The Advice Sector, Creditor and Enforcement Sector, Local Authority Sector and finally Inter-departments of the Ministry of Justice.

So where are we up to?

As an association we expect to see a slight uplift in the already published fees that should track the consumer price index, although that report is not due until the end of October or beginning of November, which has held up the publishing and laying of the fees element before Parliament.

We also expect to see the Civil Procedure Rules Committee cover such elements as applications for objections of being charged too much, application procedures to reduce the seven-day notice period, interpleaders and third party claims, and finally exempt goods applications.

There is also a strong indication that a new look National Standards for Enforcement Agents will be published, which will requires bodies, such as CIVEA and the High Court Enforcement Officers Association to sign up to them.

However, the good news is that our association, again, expects that all the regulations in respect of the new regime will be laid before parliament before December of this year. That will in turn give us around three or possibly four months to look at, and nail down outstanding issues such as training,

certification, complaints, and agreeing what transitional arrangements will be implemented from the old to the new.

The Enforcement Law Reform Group held their last meeting at the House of Lords on the 7 October, and have decided to reconvene around October 2014 to discuss any unintended consequences that the new regime will bring up, however it will be under the new name of the Enforcement Law Review Group.

So as a new enforcement era beckons, we will continue to work very closely with all of the stakeholders that will usher in a new enforcement regime on 6 April 2014. Yes, the countdown begins.

Martin Leyshon Chairman of the High Court Enforcement Officers Association.

This article appeared in the CCR Magazine.

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