We’re angry to hear that the government now wants private companies to take over collecting court fines – currently this important work is done by the civil service.
The Ministry of Justice is sneaking through this major privatisation plan while parliament is in recess. The government tried to privatise court fees just two years ago and wasted £8 million of public money before dropping the plans.
We think these plans are outrageous and the way they are being snuck through during the summer recess is shameful.
At the moment, civil servants who collect these court fees are subject to the Civil Service Code of behaviour. This Code helps to protect vulnerable people from abuse by bailiffs, and ensures that people who default or don’t pay their fees are dealt with fairly and impartially. This is essential because the bailiffs have the power to search people’s houses, put them in custody, and access sensitive police data.
There are issues surrounding current practices of fine collections – a recent report from Citizens Advice claimed that reforms to collections in 2014 have failed to curb unfair practices among bailiffs. Vulnerable people aren’t properly protected from bailiffs who might exploit or abuse their power. Privatising the collection of court fees will only put these people in more danger.
The Code of behaviour will not apply to a private, outsourced organisation. If the collection of court fees is privatised, then we will have next to no protection from rogue bailiffs, and more people will be treated unfairly.
To make matters worse, the Ministry of Justice admitted in 2015 that outsourcing would not provide ‘best value for the taxpayer’. Privatisation is expensive, and a waste of public money.
We also know that when justice services are run for profit, standards drop – the outsourcing of translation services in courts, for instance, has proved disastrous. There is no justification for outsourcing the collection of court fines.
An Early Day Motion has been tabled in parliament opposing the plans, and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is asking supporters to email their MPs asking them to sign.
We Own It supports this vital campaign to keep our justice services public – use the PCS action page to email your MP now!