The family of a debtor who took his own life have joined the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Debt and Personal Finance to bring a campaign on bailiff conduct to parliament.
Jerome Rogers was a 20-year-old man who worked as a delivery courier. His variable income meant that when he received two traffic fines, each of £65, he was unable to pay immediately. Rogers was contacted by an enforcement company employed to collect the fines.
The APPG said enforcement fees and charges applied to the debt rapidly escalated the total to more than £1,000. It also said, that despite his efforts to seek an affordable repayment plan, bailiffs clamped his motorbike, meaning he was then unable to work.
After attempts to resolve the situation, Rogers took his own life in 2016.
Now Rogers’ family have joined the APPG, chaired by Yvonne Fovargue MP, to talk about the campaign. They have attended the session with their local MP Sarah Jones and Joe Bullman, director of BBC docu-drama Killed by my Debt, which tells Rogers’ story.
The campaign brought to parliament, Taking Control, is run by a coalition of 11 national charities who are pressing the government for an independent regulator to control how private sector bailiff firms operate.
It is also calling for legislative changes to improve the operation and supervision of bailiffs and private sector bailiff firms.
Last year, Credit Strategy ran a feature on enforcement focussing on issues arising from what happened to Rogers. The magazine also covered a report from the coalition of charities that found aggressive and threatening bailiff behaviour is not uncommon, with thousands of people suffering financial and emotional hardship as a result.
Tracey Rogers, Jerome’s mother, said: “The government needs to take action so the circumstances around Jerome’s death can never happen again.
“Affordable payment plans should be something you are offered, not a privilege you have to beg for. If ministers listen to why bailiffs need to be regulated, perhaps other families can be spared the hurt that we’ve been caused.”
The APPG said it believes the family’s message is an important matter for public debate and for parliamentary consideration.
Fovargue said: “Jerome’s tragic story shocks us all the more because the mountain of debt he ended up with started out as a simple traffic penalty.
“What was once a manageable debt quickly became an unmanageable one, because of bailiff fees and charges.
“This must not be allowed to happen again. The government reforms of 2014 have failed to stamp out the threats, intimidation other bad behaviours that are all too common in the bailiff industry. Which is why in their forthcoming review, ministers need to look afresh at controlling the industry.
“Bailiffs need to be properly trained, managed, supervised and – above all – subject to independent oversight. Debt enforcement must no longer remain a Cinderella service in the world of financial regulation.”