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Council call off bailiffs after discovering an eviction blocked by community response was for a debt owed to them

Bailiffs were trying to evict the woman and her two children a week before Christmas.

Reports

Ruth woke up at 7 o’clock last Friday morning to a bailiff trying to drill out the lock on her front door. 

This was the fourth eviction attempt in as many weeks. A few days earlier, on Monday 13 December, Bristol City Council found out that they were unwittingly responsible for an eviction attempt that would have left a mother and her children homeless two weeks before Christmas. 

Easton homeowner Ruth is being chased over a debt over a fraud conviction – which she says she was unfairly prosecuted for – from 2012 that was passed to an out-of-town debt collection agency by the county court in 2019. She says there was an overpayment for housing benefit while she was entitled to council tax benefit but she was prosecuted for both. The council say they weren’t aware that she and her children were about to be evicted over the debt. 

Acorn members and neighbours making a blockade in front of Ruth’s house (Photo: Aidan Cassidy)

The council introduced an “ethical debt collection” policy in 2018 for council tax debts that reduces bailiff use, a move propelled by a Cable campaign to #bootoutbailiffs. But this debt was passed direct from the court to the bailiffs, so Ruth has been facing repeated attempts to evict her just before Christmas, and without the usual welfare support she should get from the council. 

A spokesperson for the council told the Cable they weren’t aware that an eviction was due to take place, and if they had been they would have linked Ruth up with the appropriate welfare support, including homelessless prevention and child protection services, and debt advice. 

The Cable understands that the council called the bailiffs last week to ask them to hold off and that the bailiffs said it was “unlikely” they would evict before Christmas. The council is now looking at alternative options to eviction. 

Community action blocks ‘a ridiculously unnecessary eviction’

Out-of-town private debt collection agency Richard Long & Co were due to evict Ruth and her children from her home on Monday 13 December. 

The eviction would have left Ruth and her two children, 10 and 12, homeless. Community union Acorn had organised its members and gone door knocking in the area to drum up supporters to resist the eviction. After sounding the alarm on social media and a Whatsapp callout group the previous evening, around 50 Acorn members, neighbours and supporters stood outside the front and back entrances of the house to block the bailiffs’ way. 

“There’s a mother and two young children in this house and we want to make sure that they’re not going to be made homeless for Christmas,” said Ruby Burgess, spokesperson for Acorn. “We’re non violent, we’re just trying to block their way, essentially, so they can’t get in.” 

Ruth says the bailiffs broke in and smashed a hole in her door with an axe during a previous eviction attempt (Photo provided by Ruth)

Rachel and Martin, who live nearby, came after Acorn members came knocking. Martin said they’d come along to try and prevent “a ridiculously unnecessary eviction”.

“The housing situation in Bristol is so awful and it’s so difficult for people to find accommodation that you sort of worry what will happen to a family that are kicked out just before Christmas,” added Rachel. 

Drivers going past honked their horns in support. Ruth’s front downstairs window was covered in hand-written posters she’d written showing the different laws she says she’s protected by. “I’ve been up all night making those”, she told the Cable. 

This was the second recent eviction attempt of the household. In the first attempt the bailiffs forced entry in an eviction attempt that was illegal, say Acorn. Ruth says she came home on 25 November to find one of the doors with an axe hole in it and her possessions scattered. “All the things were on the floor,” she told the Cable. She said that they terrified her children. A spokesperson for Richard Long & Co said that the bailiff company wasn’t aware of any damage caused during the eviction attempt and had thought the house was empty when they entered. 

The bailiffs never turned up on Monday, though supporters think that they may have arrived, seen that the way wasn’t clear, and left. They’ve since turned up at Ruth’s door at 7am on the following Wednesday and Thursday morning and Acorn members spent the whole of Thursday outside Ruth’s house in case they came back. Ruth told the Cable she has had to pay £160 for new locks to secure her property.

Councillor Craig Cheney, deputy mayor with responsibility for finance said: “This administration condemns the actions of the recovery agents and have put a hold on any further action whilst we seek to better understand the situation. Collecting debts cannot be done without consideration for the impact on families, particularly this close to Christmas, and the wider problems caused by aggressive tactics without a joined-up approach.

“In many cases where debt is chased in isolation the consequences are to create additional pressures on housing, social services, welfare support, health agencies and the charity sector. Often the sum total of support required to deal with the consequences outvalues the debt owed in the first place.

“I will shortly bring our new ethical debt collection policy to Cabinet with a view to curb short-sighted collection practices. We aim to ensure that where people owe money, they have the opportunities to meet their obligations without pushing the pressure onto other services. Should this receive Cabinet support, we will roll out new practices across the council during the next year.”

Council say they were unaware of eviction

Jim, a member of squatting and homelessness activist group Bristol Housing Action Network (BHAM) was at the eviction resistance on Monday.  

“I’m pretty appalled that the council are behind it, that they’re trying to evict someone from their own house just to settle a debt. 

“I would have thought that it would be easier to just get some kind of debt repayment going and it just seems totally ridiculous. Especially a woman who’s disabled with children.” 

An Acorn member called the council out on twitter Thursday morning for the eviction.

The council, however, say they were not aware that an eviction was taking place. 

Bristol City Council’s new “ethical debt collection” policy, launched in 2018 and being expanded to do more debt collection in-house next year, commits to reducing the use of bailiffs to collect council debts. Instead, the council aims to take back some of the £15 million it loses every year from unpaid council tax through fairer and more efficient debt collection schemes focusing on early intervention, affordable repayment plans and advice.

But because this debt went through the courts instead of through the council’s in-house debt collection scheme it was passed to the bailiffs by court order and the council says they’ve been out of the loop ever since. The council would not have been informed until the house had been seized and sold, and the debt paid. 

Ruth has contested the fraud conviction, she says she’s being chased over money that she was entitled to and that she should never have been prosecuted over. Richard Long & Co have had the confiscation order since 2019, which they say allows them to seize and sell her house to pay off the debt. 

Ruth says an eviction would be illegal because due process has not been followed. She also has multiple disabilities. She says that the eviction attempts have left her feeling “violated in so many ways”. 

“I should be going out for walks and exercising my limbs and enjoying my life. I shouldn’t be having to think that I can’t leave my home because someone might drill out my lock and do what they like. 

“They want to coerce me into handing over my home and I’m not going to do that.” 

Council ‘must take responsibility’

Aidan Cassidy, national organiser for Acorn, told the Cable that passing the debt to the court doesn’t mean they can forget about the outcome: potential eviction and subsequent homelessness of a family.

“It’s irresponsible of the council to just give its debts away and wash their hands of it. […] It doesn’t mean that there’s not a responsibility for making somebody homeless.

“If the council are going to go around saying they’re not evicting people, they can’t just wash their hands of the difficult cases. It’s up to them to take responsibility for it and to stop it happening”.

Ruth praised Acorn for their “support, protection and the platform to raise the concern and issues that are facing many who are vulnerable to eviction. […] Today’s resistance was very important in the interest of justice. This includes the emotional and psychological support”.

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Comments

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  • “The Acorn Union has truly given me the strength, support and courage to gain the confidence to speak out about the miscarriages of justice and prejudice I have experienced from Bristol City Council. ACORN support, protection and the platform to raise the concern and issues that are facing many who are vulnerable to eviction. ACORN is very relevant, for today, tomorrow and the future to protect and preserve what is right irrespective of a flawed judicial process that fails to apply the Significant and relevant laws that needs to be upheld. In UNITY there is STRENGTH. Today’s resistance was very important in the interest of Justice. This includes the emotional and psychological support
    Thank you ACORN”

    Reply

    • Charging Order

      Bristol City Council avoiding their responsibility under the Human Rights Act 1998 seeking to enter into agreements which permits them to discriminate or commit other unlawful acts
      i.e the fraudulent Charging Order of £8000 that they placed upon Ruth’s privately owned property making a false statement to the land registry which is prohibited in Law under the Fraud Act 2006 Section 1 and is contravention to Land Law 1926

      The Charging Order 3BS01344 and the general form of Judgement had been Set Aside. Later it had been falsely claimed by Caroline Saunders who works for Bristol City Council that this Charging Order had been removed in error so as to defraud the Land Registry entry and deliberately prejudice the Records creating a bankrupt state deliberately for Ruth by damaging her credit file.

      The property is NOT owned or purchased from Bristol City Council and there is no automatic right while the Debt is disputed because of the Catalogue of inconsistencies which have no merit in a judicial process which should operate with transparency. BRISTOL CITY COUNCIL inhibited the transparency that is required within the Judicial process set down in Law.
      Ruth is entitled to Due Process and Justice and have been deliberately deprived of this.
      Charging Order does not Comply with Practice Guide 76 – Charging Orders. It is Ruth’s right under Rule 136 of the Land Registration Rules of 2003 because the documents submitted contains Prejudicial information which has adversely caused irreversible damage to Ruth’s credit file.

      Bristol City Council is deliberately using this falsified Charging Order to secure an undertaking via the Bailiffs. They are also refusing to remove it despite repeated direct instructions to Caroline Saunders W who has deliberately chosen to disobey the Courts instructions whilst forging ahead with Bailiff actions.

      Reply

    • The Law of Property Act 1926 states:
      “The receiver has no power to discharge the property from any mortgage or charge, including the mortgage or mortgage under which the receiver was appointed, regardless of their dates of creation.”
      – Practice Papers 36 of Land Law 1926.

      Reply

    • 3.2.1.2 Application for cancellation under rule 97 of the Land Registration Rules 2003

      According to the Law of Property Act 1926 acceptable evidence will be either:

      “There are third parties with whom there are beneficiaries who presently reside in the property”along with Ruth she occupies the property with her children who are beneficiaries.

      The law protects Bailiff actions.

      Reply

    • The bank understands Land Law 1926 and applies it and understands that the Possession Order and the Eviction Notice which Long and Co Nigel Heath Sinclair are in possession of is invalidated on multiple grounds of legal implications which they wish to avert that are unlawful. Despite using Land Law 1926 in my defence Long and co said it has no merit.

      Reply

    • Human Rights Act 1998. Protocol 1 Article 1 States:

      Protocol 1, Article 1: Protection of property

      Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.

      Reply

  • Terry Howlett working for BRISTOL City Council had a vengeance that he was unable to purchase the property and continually harassed Ruth despite BRISTOL DEBT ADVISORY wrote to BRISTOL CITY COUNCIL stating that they should provide assistance for the completion of the forms and a support worker. BRISTOL City Council Staff Allan cane and completed the forms I was unaware what he had completed and he had asked me to sign and I signed. I was unaware of the complications of the signed application. Later on BRISTOL City Council stated that Allan had not worked for them. My health was not taken into consideration before after or during the trial. I had no understanding of what was being said, and everything I had said my Barrister Oliver Willmott was not fighting my case witness called interviewed but not called to the court. Their sole intention was to purchase the property. I asked the Barrister that I would like to repay the debt by instalments but he refused. The Barrister and the council Colluded making large debts to ensure the disposal of the property I was shocked when my very own defence Barrister in the presence of my daughter asked me to purchase my home for £160,000 incredibly less than what I had paid for it or what was the present value. I asked the Barrister where would my children go. My Barrister failed to challenge Rhoda Ismail statement that she gave me money on a monthly basis that be failed to cross question her since he decided that he could acquire the property if sold and other allegations of hear say evidence she gave to the court without any proof. The Barrister never challenged her for the receipts. It is for this point I lost my case to a hear say evidence that could not be cracked up. There was a duty of care under Human Rights Act to have access to my medical records due to the severity of my health and the amount of times I had to be take to hospital.

    During the trial I had a transitional care baby because of my medication which I had to Brest feed.and the stress I was put under BRISTOL City Council took all of my possessions. I had no idea at the time that they were breaching the Human Rights Act of 1998 but I felt violated since they took my children toys books possessions. I was going along west street taking my son to nursery on Lamb street and my son who who was 3 years old saw his dragon in the window our Bar-b-q and several of our possessions.
    BRISTOL City Council cannot give an account for myself and children possessions which were worth over 250,000 which came out of the property at 70 Goodhind Street; including money and jewellery and valuables. Some which were original art works.

    Reply

  • Bristol city versus little Ruthie.
    I thought we had progressed beyond this.
    Apparently not.
    Whatever happens Ruth, Bless you and your children.
    jt
    Sointula, BC.,
    Canada.

    Reply

    • The man is outside his Regulatory Standards scope yet he had need parading around like a solicitor instructing barristers and Solicitors what a sham I shall leave no stone unturned for them !!!

      Reply

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