Thursday, 8 January 2009

Labour plans to strip away another liberty

The Times is reporting that goverment is proposing that bailiffs be given the power to force their way into homes to remove items and physically restrain residents who get in the way. Interestingly, the paper has also uncovered that Court Service guidelines have given bailiffs authority to break down doors since 2004 if they suspect the people inside to be hiding from them. The new law would allow bailiffs to break in even if nobody is home.

The idea that an Englishman's home is his castle is a centuries-old principle. It draws a line between the private and the public, the authority of state power and the liberty of the individual. It embodies the concept that a man may defend himself and his property from invaders, be they civil or state. Now the government proposes that individuals acting on a private matter be given the power to forcibly enter the homes of private individuals and forcibly restrain them to collect upon civil debts.

If we must lose this particular liberty then the authority to enter a home should be specifically granted by a judge on the grounds that he believes an individual is withholding items that could be forfeited in payment of the debt. If bailiffs anticipate that force will be needed to enter a property and restrain its occupants then the police MUST be present, otherwise there will inevitibly be violent confrontations between individuals and debt collection agents, many of whom are, being generous, of dubious character.

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