TV bailiff apologises for rifling through couple's drawers during unlawful search

TV bailiff apologises for rifling through couple's drawers during unlawful search


A bailiff who stars in the TV show ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ has apologised to a couple after he entered their house unlawfully and rifled through their belongings.

Gary Brown, who appears in the Channel 5 documentary, walked through the unlocked front door with a colleague at the home in Bracknell, Berkshire and searched private drawers and wardrobes.

A judge ruled Mr Brown should have made more thorough checks before entering Leigh Bozkurt and partner Andrew Turner’s property, after it emerged they didn’t owe any money, and the bailiffs had been given the wrong address.

Last month another bailiff who appears on the programme was cleared of using unlawful violence while collecting £10,000 debt from a manor house in Derbyshire.   

Gary Brown

Homeowners Leigh Bozkurt and Andrew Turner

Gary Brown (left) who appears in the Channel 5 documentary, walked through the unlocked front door with a colleague at the home of Leigh Bozkurt and partner Andrew Turner (right)

Ms Bozkurt and Mr Turner said they felt ‘violated’ and ‘petrified’ as they filmed the two men who refused to leave. 

After a court hearing at Brighton County Court which ruled he had entered the house unlawfully, Mr Brown, who remains a certified high court enforcement officer, said he was sorry and admitted he should have ‘done more’ to check they had the correct address.

Ms Bozhurt told the BBC: ‘I was petrified. 

I initially thought they were policemen because they mimic the way they dress. ‘I could feel my anxiety rising. 

Mr Brown (third from left) stars in Channel 5 programme 'Can't Pay We'll Take It Away'

Mr Brown (third from left) stars in Channel 5 programme ‘Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away’

‘I was shaking like a leaf and the gentleman said, ‘My name’s Gary Brown but you’ll know me from Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away!’

Bailiff powers when they visit your home

A bailiff (‘enforcement agent’) may visit your home if you do not pay your debts – such as Council Tax bills, parking fines, court fines and county court or family court judgments.

This will happen if you ignore letters saying that bailiffs will be used.

You usually do not have to open your door to a bailiff or let them in.

Bailiffs cannot enter your home by force, for example by pushing past you; if only children under 16 or vulnerable people (with disabilities, for example) are present; between 9pm and 6am; through anything except the door.

Bailiffs are allowed to force their way into your home to collect unpaid criminal fines, Income Tax or Stamp Duty, but only as a last resort. 

They are allowed to enter through unlocked doors.  

The hearing was told he was given the address by Direct Collection Bailiffs Limited. It was given the address by the real person in debt.

The BBC reported Mr Brown is a self employed high court enforcement officer being contracted by DCBL. 

Judge Richard Simpkiss said Mr Brown had entered the house unlawfully as there was ‘practically no evidence the debtor lived there’.

He said that enforcement had gone ‘too far away from the protection of innocent people’. 

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Turner hailed the court ruling as a ‘phenomenal victory’ that ‘will be groundbreaking.’

He told the BBC: ‘This has opened up to protect more innocent victims out there to stop these bailiffs from just walking into a home.’ 

Direct Collection Bailiffs Limited refused to comment when contacted by MailOnline. 

Channel 5 have been approached for comment.

Bailiff, 40, from ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ is CLEARED of ‘acting like a burglar’ by illegally barging into 19th century manor to collect £10,000 debt from terrified homeowner

Matthew Heighway was cleared of using unlawful violence to force entry into the home

Matthew Heighway was cleared of using unlawful violence to force entry into the home

A bailiff who stars in the show ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ was arrested for ‘acting like a burglar’ while collecting a £10,000 debt at a country manor house. 

Matthew Heighway was charged with using unlawful violence to force entry into the 19th Century Park Hall Manor in the village of Little Hayfield in the Peak District after terrified owners Kris Clayton and Steven Ellis called police.

Officers arrived to find Heighway pushing the front door open as the couple called for help inside, Stockport Magistrates’ Court heard. 

The incident happened in July 2018 after Heighway was assigned to collect £10,000 owed to a supplier of the former Clayton Hotels group, of which Mr Clayton was director. 

Civil partners Mr Clayton, 57, and Mr Ellis, 44, claimed Heighway was ‘walking into their home like a burglar’ and accused him of assault. 

The 40-year-old former celebrity bodyguard, who became a High Court Enforcement Agent before starring the Channel 5 show, insisted he was ‘doing his job’.

He told officers he was ‘willing to be arrested to prove a point’.

Heighway, from Kidderminster, Worcester, was today cleared by magistrates who said it could not be proved his use of force was ‘unlawful.’ 

Steven Ellis outside court

Matthew Heighway outside court

Steven Ellis (pictured left outside Stockport Magistrates’ Court) and his partner called police as Heighway (right) tried to force his way into their home

Mr Clayton, who denies owing money, told the court Clayton Hotels Limited was sold in August 2016 and he had nothing on his property belonging to the company.

He said Heighway warned he was ‘going to take anything in the house’ as he tried to force his way inside the 14-bedroom property. 

Mr Clayton told the court: ‘I locked the front door and tried to call my solicitor but  couldn’t get through so I told him through the glass. He said he was having difficulty hearing me so I partially opened the door but he just went for it and went to force the door past me.

‘I was like, ‘what are you doing?’ I was pretty horrified.’  

He added: ‘I said I have had a letter from my accountant but [Heighway] replied: ‘I’m not interested in that – your wife could have written that.”

Police arrived at the scene and told Heighway to leave or risk being arrested.

The TV bailiff was charged with using unlawful violence to force entry into the 19th Century Park Hall Manor (pictured) in the village of Little Hayfield in the Peak District

The TV bailiff was charged with using unlawful violence to force entry into the 19th Century Park Hall Manor (pictured) in the village of Little Hayfield in the Peak District

Mr Clayton said: ‘[Heighway] pushed all of his weight and pulled the door back which threw me and Steven on the floor, I smacked my head and fell backwards.

‘All hell broke loose. The police officer said: ‘Everybody calm down and stand still or I’ll arrest the lot of you”.

Mr Ellis told the court: ‘He tried to push his way into the house and I said, ‘you’re not coming in – get out’.

‘It shocked me how he threw himself at the door – you wouldn’t expect a high court employee to act like that.’ 

The 40-year-old former celebrity bodyguard became a High Court Enforcement Agent before starring the Channel 5 show

The 40-year-old former celebrity bodyguard became a High Court Enforcement Agent before starring the Channel 5 show

PC Simon Clarke told the hearing: ‘Although we work with bailiffs quite often we had never come across this before. I was explaining that under the bailiff’s powers there was no entry unless it was peaceful. 

‘I asked him to step out of the doorway because we believed the entry was unlawful but he refused saying he was carrying out the job under the law and then he pushed the door open.

‘The situation had deteriorated and the occupants were upset they had ended up on the floor. I believed if I left him there I was allowing him to assault the home owners. 

Heighway told the court, 'I do regret everything that happened on the day'

Heighway told the court, ‘I do regret everything that happened on the day’

‘I wasn’t happy with that so I arrested him for violence to secure entry.’ 

Heighway told the court: ‘I was unaware whether this was a residential property or a commercial property – I didn’t realise until we were back at the police station.

‘There are lots of myths surrounding entry like when people say bailiffs can’t come in unless you invite them in. We can enter through any open door and there certainly wasn’t any unreasonable use of force in this case. 

‘However I do regret everything that happened on the day. 

‘It could have been done in another way that would have caused less fuss. 

‘Normally I wouldn’t speak to a solicitor at the scene because I can’t confirm who they are – people call their gran, their accountant or even their uncle who used to be a solicitor.

‘The two people on the other side wedged me in that position, the officer did ask me to withdraw, but the police officer isn’t the law. He can be wrong as I can be wrong.’ 

TAGS
Share This

COMMENTS

Wordpress (0)