- Surely any levy or fees charged by a bailiff with the wrong exam qualification would be deemed unlawful?
“Over the past 12 months I’ve become increasingly concerned about the validity of some level two qualifications presented to judges and as a consequence the validity of any certificates granted on the basis of those qualifications. It’s my opinion that some qualifications do not meet the CPR. I believe that this practice is rife within the industry and there are significant numbers of bailiffs out there who do not have a bona fide level two qualification that meets the CPR. I constantly encounter bailiffs who present qualifications which I consider to be suspect; I have then to re-qualify them before they can start employment with me.
Rule 84.18 specifies that an applicant for a bailiff certificate should provide proof that s/he has achieved “at least a qualification on taking control of goods at (or above) level 2 of the Qualifications and Credit Framework or equivalent as determined by a nationally accredited awarding body.” All qualifications with Quality and Credit Framework (QCF) status are registered and regulated by the Office of Qualification and Examinations (OFQUAL). The OFQUAL register contains a list of accredited awarding institutions and organisations with their qualifications and also includes a list of recognised organisations that meet the standards set by the QCF. I have seen several certificates issued to bailiffs by bodies that claim to have QCF status, yet do not appear on the OFQUAL register. I also have seen certificates of participation in, completion of or attendance on a programme as a consequence of which judges have granted general bailiff certificates- yet none of these documents satisfy the CPR.
Some of the qualifications I have come across clearly state that they are “at level 2 under the Qualification & Credit Framework” but the awarding bodies do not appear on the OFQUAL register (and, to repeat for absolute clarity, if it’s not on the register it’s not QCF). However, the second part of the regulation states that an award may also be “as determined by a nationally accredited awarding body.” This would be the other route to a valid qualification: an equivalent to a QCF certificate could be awarded by one of the national awarding bodies (such as IRRV or City & Guilds). These awards should make it clear that they are “equivalent to” the QCF qualification- not all of them do, however.
Some certificates are not determined by an awarding body at all, though, but by an employee of an enforcement company (these are in-house certificates). Rule 84.18 states that there should be a ‘qualification,’ but some of these certificates are not clearly not qualifications in the legal sense: the receivers of the certificates have merely completed an enforcement agent development programme, or attended and completed a training course. A ‘certificate of participation’ or a ‘certificate of competence’ that is not founded upon the national framework is simply a worthless piece of paper.
OFQUAL are aware and have issued a rather feeble response “We regulate qualifications, examinations and assessments in England and vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland. We maintain standards in the qualification system to give the public the confidence in the qualifications but do not decide if a qualification meets rules laid out under legislation which doesn’t fall under our remit. We are therefore unable to confirm if a qualification meets the Civil Procedures Rules”. The other awarding bodies do not feel it is their role to intervene. Ministry of Justice have been alerted but have yet to act upon this.
It may be that some EAs are quite innocent in acquiring an inappropriate qualification which, as a consequence, dupes a judge (born out of ignorance of the requirements) into granting a general enforcement agent’s certificate. Those out there who are not following the correct procedure (wittingly or un-wittingly) may have to suffer the consequences should the MoJ decide to enforce what they set out to do in the first place, which was to raise standards by introducing an entry level qualification for the civil enforcement industry.
I think this could be a big problem. The courts need to be aware which certificates are acceptable. In conclusion, I believe that many judges are granting certificates on the basis of inauthentic qualifications which should be called into question and the providers of these certificates and qualifications should be investigated.”
This is, needless to say, not just an issue of court administration and enforcement agency practice. If the agent is not lawfully qualified, there could be grounds for challenging the validity of every enforcement action undertaken by him/her. This could in turn lead to demands for the repayment of large sums of fees and, even, the debts collected by those unqualified individuals.