13/01/2012 01:29 GMT

Bailiff Behaviour Targeted By Ministry Of Justice

The government is revising guidelines on the conduct of bailiffs to stop "unscrupulous" practices in the industry.

Announcing the change, justice minister Jonathan Djanogly said: "Bailiffs are an important part of the justice system so the few unscrupulous bailiffs must be stopped from putting people in harm’s way or taking advantage of the vulnerable."

The government has updated the 'national standards' - a set of guidelines for bailiffs - in an attempt to prevent them from misrepresenting their powers, using unlawful force to get into someone's home, and to recommend they withdraw from someone's home when only a child is present.

But Labour MP Austin Mitchell, whose daughter was affected by intimidating debt collectors, told Huffington Post UK the changes weren't tough enough: “The government must toughen up the voluntary code for a legally binding regime and have it backed by an independent regulator”.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice Bureau said: “These National Standards have been around for years. Justice Minister, Jonathan Djanogly is right to renew efforts to bring bad practice among bailiffs to account. But the new rules won’t offer any more protection unless there’s an independent regulator with the power to control bailiff conduct and ensure fairness for people in financial difficulties."

As he announced the standards, Djanogly outlined the proposals to create a new legally-binding regulatory regime for bailiffs. The regime aims to limit what fees bailiffs can charge for debts they collect for councils, debts and businesses - as well as clarify what goods bailiffs cannot confiscate from properties and what time they can enter properties. The Ministry of Justice said that the Djanogly's proposals will consulted on by the House of Commons in Spring - with a view of turning them into law.

Labour Shadow Justice Minister Rob Flello MPsaid: "We welcome attempts to bring greater clarity to the fragmented and confusing rules that regulate the operation of bailiffs. However, this announcement is much delayed and the government's proposals appear half-hearted in their desire to tackle rogue bailiffs."