Bailiffs fail to recover cash in 68pc of cases

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 October, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 October, 1999, 12:00am

Court-ordered bailiffs fail in more than two-thirds of attempts to collect money.

Recent figures reveal that taxpayers and workers are losing out because money they are owed is not being handed over.

Judiciary statistics show 49,011 of 72,288 bailiff cases - about 68 per cent - failed in the first seven months of this year. Last year, almost 70 per cent of 126,932 cases failed.

Bailiffs are responsible for serving summonses or legal documents and the execution of court orders.

Most failed cases relate to summonses issued under the Magistrates Ordinance and Road Traffic Ordinance as well as claims based on rulings in the Small Claims Tribunal.

Summonses are often pay-up orders for driving offences. The rulings include those for workers made redundant when a firm goes bankrupt.

A Judiciary spokesman said most bailiffs' orders could not be carried out because of false, incomplete or incorrect addresses given to government departments or police officers. Other reasons included businesses going into liquidation.

Under the present system, the bailiffs' office is not responsible for tracing the whereabouts of debtors or ensuring the recovery of money an applicant is entitled to under a court ruling.

The spokesman said the Judiciary had nine temporary bailiffs' assistants working with seven senior bailiffs and 49 bailiffs assistants.

Government departments have been told to ensure they obtain the correct addresses from defendants.

Legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo of the Democratic Party said strengthening and giving more power to the bailiffs' office was necessary.

'People will lose confidence in our judiciary system if judgments are not enforced. It seems only rich people's rights are protected while poor people who are entitled to receive payment under a court judgment are given no guarantee that their rights will be safeguarded,' said Mr Cheng.

'If defendants repeatedly intended not to answer their doors or their families claimed they were not there, bailiffs always give up without further investigation.'