Under sheriff fights back

I write in response to Philip Evans' article (The Lawyer, 1 December 1998) on whether county court bailiffs can deal with the increased pressures forced upon them by recession and rule changes.

The description of a "shrivelled shrievalty" mentioned in Philip's penultimate paragraph is inaccurate and misleading. The sheriffs in England and Wales have been described recently as the law's "best-kept secret". The oldest secular office in the UK has at last realised that it has a service that is both needed and successful. Over the coming months we will demonstrate to court users, the legal profession and to corporates direct that we are able to turn county court judgments into cash.

The sheriff's customers are the High Court and the county courts, the creditors who instruct us and the defendants from whom we collect. Each customer has to be treated with impartiality and fairness. It is our ability to combine successful collection with a fair and proper approach that gives sheriffs their unique position in the debt collection industry.

It is time that we started to promote our success and to invite court users to take advantage of the service we offer. With fixed fees and centralised lodgement, together with a marketing campaign that is honest and straightforward, I believe we can deliver the enforcement agency the Government desperately needs and which court users rightly demand.

Claire Sandbrook, Under Sheriff of Surrey