Alan J. Smith, Chair of the High Court Enforcement Officers Association, calls on the government to make more progress on making body-worn cameras mandatory for enforcement agents.
In July 2019, Paul Maynard, the then Justice Minister, announced that all enforcement agents, apart from County Court bailiffs, would be required to wear body-worn cameras.
Since that date, no substantial progress has been made towards making this a reality.
The HCEOA is very much in favour of body-worn video cameras being compulsory, as there are numerous benefits to all parties.
Many enforcement companies and self-employed enforcement agents already use body-worn cameras during their visits. However, without regulation, their usage will be inconsistent. The industry needs those regulations to ensure that all footage is captured and saved according to the same procedures.
Having an indisputable video and audio record of the visit brings many benefits to debtors, creditors and enforcement agents – it really is a win-win situation:
- If there is a complaint, the footage can be viewed to impartially establish the facts of the matter
- The conduct of both the debtor and the enforcement agent will be captured – providing peace of mind if any false accusations are made
- The footage can be used to assess performance and personal development of agents
In the industry, we often find that debtors complain to the advice sector about enforcement agent misconduct. In the experience of our members, the advice sector often takes this anecdotal, unverified information as fact, providing resulting statistics and data that are presented as quantitative.
The compulsory use of body-worn cameras would enable the enforcement companies and the advice sector to establish the veracity of these anecdotal reports and thereby gain a more complete understanding of the true state of affairs relating to enforcement agent conduct.
How long should footage be stored?
In terms of moving forwards, there is one key stumbling block and that is, how long should the footage be stored for? Data storage could be a significant expense for our members, especially as we are talking about very large volumes of video data, potentially stored for prolonged periods.
However, this is no reason to delay the development of a consultation and drafting regulations to make this now long overdue change happen.