Thursday, 28 June 2012


I have decided to firmly commit myself to the 21st century whilst still espousing those good old punk ethics of do it yourself, so I have signed up to Kindle and Amazon's Create Space for self publishing.

I had a number of texts which I had preapred but which had sat around in cupboards for some years, occasionally being added to, and decided that the time had come to act.  Several articles in the paper after the new year told me how easy it was to self publish, especially e-texts, so I decided that the time had come.  I had some solid free time in which to do it so i gritted my teeth and sat down at the PC to get the books out there.

The major lesson is: it's really easy provided that you have the texts set up right in the first case.  I hadn't; too many bad habits from self-taught typing.  My sins included:

  • using tabs to indent rather than the ruler thing at the top of the page in Word;
  • not using 'Styles & formatting' to create levels of titles and just using bold/ italics and positioning to do it myself;
  • no first line indent on paragraphs.
These were the main ones- and the big time commitment was simply going through the books weeding all these things out. That made my eyes hurt but once it was done, the rest was very simple and quick.

Once I was signed up (again easy peasy) I just had to upload the Word document and cover and let them do the rest.  In truth, the cover was the other issue- it had to be presented as a jpeg or gif file: I had designed some nice looking covers (well, I thought so anyway), but they could not be read as they were.  How do you convert Word to jpeg?  Microsoft don't tell you, but Mr Internet (as ever) had the answers.  Again, it wasn't difficult at all- just a few stages to master- and then it was all smoothly completed.

SO, the adverts: what is up there?  I have so far e-published 3 books:

1) Estrays & executions- a collection of my published articles and essays on the development of the laws of distress and execution and on agrarian byelaws.  I look at such issues as the origins of 'legal custody' and the campaigns of resistance to levies of distress that formed part oof the political campaigns against tithes and the poll tax;
2) Customs' duties- a full length study of village and manorial byelaws regulating the infrastructure of field and home; and,
3) Lost by translation- a book about language and the invasion of North America.

Only the first of these is a 'Bailiff text', of course, but there will be more to follow:

- my two new histories of 19th century bailiff law; and,
- the second edition of my Common land.

All the details are on Amazon of course, plus the author page and other information.

Yesterday I received copies of my new book, Sources of bailiff law, only three months after I expected them to arrive.  This delay was due to "problems at the printers"- some sort of technical error on the first print run, apparently- but the delay was frustrating- especially when I had trumpeted the book's apperance based on the original publication date...  May be I was just making it up??

Anyway, the little blue tome is now with us and you can secure your copy from all good book shops etc etc...

Even when they ran, crisp and shiny, off the presses their journey to me was not yet smooth.  My publisher forgot my change of address and sent the box to the old premises.  It could not be delivered there so I had to visit the sorting office once the new occupier had dropped off the 'while you were out' card. 

The box was collected alright, but I asked the man behind the counter why the one year's redirect we's paid for had not worked.  This was because "the postman sees it but the parcel delivery man does not."  Huh???  Is the Royal Mail a single organisation?  Does information not get shared?  Is there a sepaeate parcels redirect (not that I've heard- and the fee already paid might seem sufficient cover the odd stray parcel in any case). 

So there we are- the workings of bureaucracy; but all's well that ends well after all.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


As we all know the clamping ban is now law- if not yet in force.  As I have said several times in Bailiff Studies Bulletin there are two unexpected risks in the new Act: one is that the ban fails and that 'cowboy' parking enforcement continues unabated; the other is that civil debt enforcement is criminalised.

I am currently researching two books on 19th century enforcement.  In the course of this I have turned up further materials confirming what I have argued in detail and at length in several previous publications- that impounding on a debtor's premises is not lawful unless statute permits it. 

In one chapter of one of the new books I examine the evolution of close possession.  In my search for materials I came up with several Parliamentary reports and documents in which government and MPs confirm what I already knew- that walking possession (for example) is not lawful unless Parliament acts to make it lawful.  This is no revelation- look for example at chapter 8 of A lawful trespass- but these new sources underline the point yet again.  The same reasoning must of course extend to close possession or clamping.  Without clear authority in statute, these remedies cannot be used.

I've said it many times before- and apparently will keep repeating myself- these processes may be convenient and effective, but they are not strictly permissible.  No-one hears because no-one wants to hear.   BUT perhaps a few criminal prosecutions would make someone listen.  Clamping becomes an offence without lawful authority- bailiffs will find that they cannot point to lawful authority because (except in just a couple of cases) they have never been given that authority by Parliament.

This is Parliament's fault- not the bailiffs'- and the complacency of Theresa May and Jonathan Djanogli on this issue has been quite staggering.  My lone voice on this issue was too small to be heard, it seems, but you might have hoped that, given full citations of all the cases and other sources, someone in government might have been able to come up with a better counter argument (if we may dignify it with such a name!) than "Ministry of Justice thinks that the right to distrain includes the right to clamp."  Does it?  Well, as we say in South Yorkshire- "Tha kno's nowt" and hopefully events will confirm this.

A journey into Wales

Bailiff blogger recently went on a research trip tp wales to do a bit of "bailiff studying" as well as a training session.  I had reserved materials at Gwent Archives, which involved me in a major expedition into the deepest Valleys.  The Archives used to be in Cwmbran, which was relatively accessible and quick to reach.  Presumably as part of an EU funded regeneration project, the whole office flitted to Ebbw Vale.  This is at the end of a single track railway line and hour from Cardiff- and even when you get there it's a half hour walk along a hillside road to find the place.  The reason Ebbw Vale needs regenerating is plain to see: there used to be a huge steel works which is now a waste land (or more correctly a building site, as they are now building executive flats and shopping malls in order to 'revive' the place).   Further down the valley was the site of a former pit and a quite few derelect factories; once, they used to do something useful here.  Now the useful employment seems to be building useless leisure facilities.

After looking at the Archives, which took less time than I expected, I walked into Ebbw Vale.  The town centre on a Thursday lunchtime in the drizzle was not an inspiring sight- to be honest, it'll take a lot of regeneration to revive this town.  I'm sorry to say it must go near the top of my list of depressing places I have visited for work, up there with Hartlepool, Thetford, Middleton and Workington (apologies if any readers live in any of these!)

The train back to Cardiff was only hourly, so I had a good look around, and must admit I was pretty glad to be back on my way south.  The information I found at the Archives was not completely what I was after, but it was still useful, and the staff were very efficient and quick- so many thanks to them.

Back in the big city, one thing that struck me at Cardiff Central/ Caerdydd Canolog was that the announcements never seem to end.  Once you've given every train arrival and departure in two languages- plus the "please mind the gap between the train and the platform" message- every few minutes, there seemed to be no peace at all. 

Peace was to be found by the river Taff in the park.  Two major factors in a great city are open space and a river.  Cardiff has both and I would be quite content to live there, I reckon.  The possibility every lunch time of getting out of the office and walking by the river under the trees, until you find yourself alone with a distant prospect of hills, is something to envy the local workers.

Still, it wasn't all pleasure- I should stress.  The research done and the materials written up whilst I was there will soon emerge as part of two new studies of bailiffs and bailiffs' law.  Watch this space for details!