A worrying example of bailiffs behaving as violent thugs which NPower believe is legitimate
Imagine that it is the early hours of the morning; you and your partner are asleep in bed. You are suddenly awoken by the sound of banging, shouting, and swearing. You jump up in fear with a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach. The commotion sounds like it is coming from outside your own home. You open the curtains and look out of the window. You see a group of men dressed in black, with balaclavas, and carrying crowbars. They are kicking and banging at your door, and shouting up at you, making threats of violence if you do not come down.
What is your first thought? Do you think it’s the police? Do you think it’s a burglary? Do you think it’s a criminal gang who have targeted the wrong house? Do you think that the revolution has started, and it’s a black bloc seeking refuge from the plod?
You would be wrong on all counts. In the case of Matthew Swale and Melanie Cunningham from Grimsby, this nightmare vision was a group of bailiffs sent round by Npower to collect an unpaid gas bill that belonged to a previous tenant.
The couple had a pet Labrador that as you would expect, began to bark when the hired thugs were kicking and banging on the door. They forced entry in the back door using crowbars, and then sprayed chemicals into the eyes of the dog to subdue it.
The bailiffs repeatedly threatened the couple with violence, climbed on their car, refused to provide any identification, and generally terrorized them in their own home. They did leave empty handed as the couple managed to prove that they were not the people that the bailiffs were looking for.
An Npower spokesman has said that a trained dog handler had used the spray because the dog was ‘aggressive’ and we were unable to gain access, but insisted the spray was harmless and has no long term effects. The dog required treatment at the vets costing £350. The spokesman went on to say that we only ever visit properties in these circumstances when all other options have been exhausted, and it is important that you update your energy provider of your details as soon as possible to avoid this kind of thing happening.
What makes this story even worse is that the police were present at some point during the incident and do not appear to have objected to the bailiff’s tactics.
Is this really 2011 and a so called civilised society, were companies can hire ‘thugs’ to collect payment for ‘energy’, one of the most fundamental resources required to sustain life?
I naively thought that this kind of practice was in the past, clearly not. I am sure that as the fallout from the recession starts to hit people harder that the business of baliffs will be on the rise. What makes it more worrying is that the companies like Npower did not try and deny what had happened, they actually condone it! It is also made worse by the police being present, and condoning the baliffs behaviour by not intervening. The police have a license to behave like thugs and bullies, these bastards do not.
What can us as a movement do to counter this? I know that groups have existed in the past, but are they still around?