One of the most common enquiries that we receive via our helpline or Enquiry Form is the subject of Magistrate Court fines and whether or not the bailiff/enforcement agent is required to have the distress warrant/warrant of control in his possession and if so, whether he must provide a copy to you. A short while ago an enquiry was made to Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) on this very subject. Below (in italics) is their response. For ease of reference, we have broken down HMCTS’s reply into separate headings:
When is a warrant of control generated?
“It is not necessary to generate a distress warrant at the time of its issue; the relevant details can be produced (and provided to the debtor) subsequent to its issue (or indeed subsequent to its execution) but such relevant details should be recorded at the time of issue”
Who issues the distress warrant/warrant of control?
“Designated Fines Officers have the power to issue Distress Warrants/Warrants of Control under schedule 5 of the Courts Act 2003, a court hearing is not required for this sanction to be issued”.
Is the bailiff required to have the warrant in his possession?
“It is not necessary for the CEO or the AEA to have the distress warrant in his possession when levying the distress. The legislation simply requires a written statement to be shown to the debtor on demand. In addition, the CrimPR (Criminal Procedure Rules) requires arrangements to be made for the debtor to see the warrant if he so requests”.
Does the warrant of control need to be a paper document?
“The references in the above CrimPR to a “warrant” are not necessarily to a paper document, but can include an electronic version”.
Does a warrant need to be produced?
“It is not necessary for a formal “warrant” to be produced; what is of importance is that specific information must be recorded, by some means, at the time the warrant is issued. In particular, the legal basis on which the warrant is issued (for example, a record of the decision authorising the issue of a warrant (made by the court or the fines officer) and when that decision was made). In addition, the information required by CrimPR 52.7(1) should be recorded”.
Recording the date and time that the warrant was received
“The reference to the CEO or AEA recording on the warrant the date and time at which it is received (rule 52.7(2) can be satisfied by electronic means. Assuming the request to execute is sent to the CEO or AEA electronically there will be an automatic electronic record of when it was received”.
Can I ask to see the warrant of control?
“As regards the position where the debtor asks to see the warrant, what rule 52.8(2) of the CrimPR envisages is that the debtor will be taken to the relevant office and shown the relevant details on the computer screen. Alternatively, a copy of the electronic data held can be printed and provided to the debtor or the details replicated in some other documentary form (whether it be entitled a “warrant” or not).
“What is of importance, is, as stated above, that the requisite information is already held. That information can then be subsequently shown to the debtor/replicated when a request is made by the debtor”.