Monday, December 22, 2008

The 'Break Your Legs' Charter.

Breaking into some one's home and then physically assaulting them is usually considered a crime, the main exception to this is when the police arrest somebody suspected of a serious crime. It is an extraordinary power and the law only grants it to the police after a warrant has been submitted for approval to a judge.

In this recession it is likely that millions of people will face real financial hardship for the first time. This situation is made even worse by the fact that a debt bubble was encouraged and borrowers were urged to take out unfeasibly large loans.

So naturally the government has decided that now would be a good time to give debt collection agencies the right to break your legs after they force their way into your house.

The government has been accused of trampling on individual liberties by proposing wide-ranging new powers for bailiffs to break into homes and to use “reasonable force” against householders who try to protect their valuables.

Under the regulations, bailiffs for private firms would for the first time be given permission to restrain or pin down householders. They would also be able to force their way into homes to seize property to pay off debts, such as unpaid credit card bills and loans.

The idea of giving private citizens to pin down other citizens who aren't posing a threat to anyone would be extraordinary even without the credit crunch. Often the reason for an outstanding debt is an innocent misunderstanding, such as a householder mistaking utility company's letters for junk mail or assuming that their direct debit was taking care of it. Even when the debt has been incurred through the debtors own mistakes it is often the case that the government, the banks and credit card companies were egging them on. That shouldn't be sufficient to grant some thug the right to manhandle you to the ground and take your property out of your newly kicked in front door.

I haven't had much contact with the bailiffs, but from what I have heard, the employees they use to 'persuade' debtors to cough up aren't exactly the shy and retiring types. They are often steroid pumped men who couldn't get work as bouncers because of their criminal records and face tattoos. When they have the legal right to grapple a householder to ground it isn't hard to imagine how the situation could escalate to something more serious. It also isn't hard to imagine how much fear it would create in the minds of anyone who misses a payment, even if they aren't likely to be subject to the bailiffs.

This is being proposed by a government that has itself amassed a historically unprecedented level of debt that will exceed £20000 per household in a few years, according to the government's own historically optimistic forecasts.

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