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If a police officer at the scene of an eviction refuses to order a bailiff to remove his foot from a door, is the police officer breaking the law?

If a police officer at the scene of an eviction refuses to order a bailiff to remove their foot from a door, the legality of the officer’s actions depends on several factors, including the circumstances of the situation and whether the bailiff’s action is lawful. Here are some key considerations:

police assisting locksmiths

Key Considerations

  1. Bailiff’s Conduct:

    • Bailiffs are required to follow strict rules regarding entry into properties. Generally, placing a foot in the door to prevent it from closing is considered inappropriate and potentially unlawful. Bailiffs should gain entry peacefully and should not use force or intimidation.
  1. Role of the Police Officer:

    • The primary role of the police officer at an eviction is to maintain public order and ensure that the eviction process is carried out lawfully. This includes intervening if any party, including the bailiff, is acting unlawfully or causing a breach of the peace.
  2. Potential Breach of Peace:

    • If the bailiff’s action is causing or likely to cause a breach of the peace, the police officer has the duty to intervene to prevent it. This could include ordering the bailiff to remove their foot from the door.
  3. Legal Authority and Discretion:

    • Police officers have discretion in how they handle situations to maintain order and enforce the law. If the officer believes that the bailiff’s action is within legal bounds or does not pose a significant risk of escalating the situation, they may decide not to intervene.

When a Police Officer Might Be Breaking the Law

  • Failure to Prevent a Breach of the Peace:

    • If the bailiff’s actions are clearly causing a breach of the peace, and the police officer refuses to act, the officer could be seen as failing in their duty to prevent disorder. This could potentially be viewed as neglect of duty.
  • Facilitating Unlawful Conduct:

    • If the bailiff’s action of putting their foot in the door is unlawful, and the officer does nothing to stop it, the officer might be seen as indirectly facilitating unlawful conduct. This, however, is a nuanced area and would depend on the specifics of the situation.

Practical Steps to Take

  1. Request to Speak to a Senior Officer:

    • If you believe the police officer is not acting appropriately, you can request to speak to a senior officer or the officer in charge at the scene.
  2. Document the Incident:

    • Record the details of the incident, including the actions of the bailiff and the police officer, as well as any communications. This documentation can be useful if you need to file a complaint or take legal action.
  3. File a Complaint:

    • You can file a complaint against the police officer with the local police force or the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) if you believe the officer has failed in their duty.

Summary

A police officer is not automatically breaking the law if they refuse to order a bailiff to remove their foot from the door. However, if the bailiff’s actions are clearly causing a breach of the peace or are unlawful, and the officer fails to intervene, it could be seen as neglect of duty or a failure to prevent disorder. If you believe the officer’s conduct is inappropriate, documenting the incident and filing a formal complaint are recommended steps.