Grieving Halifax family left 'terrified' after council sends bailiffs to their home

Credit: ITV News

A Halifax mother who fell behind with council tax payments after the death of her baby son says bailiffs demanded to see his death certificate.

Jess King said the threatening behaviour has left her seven-year-old daughter terrified and she now refers to the bailiff as "the bad man".

Jess told ITV News: "She was terrified. She called him the bad man. She ran upstairs and she had a kind of anxiety after that.

"She’d be up and down the stairs every night after, checking that me and her dad were there."

Jess and her husband Connor were grieving the death of their baby boy, survived by his twin brother Caelan, when they got into arrears with their council tax bills.

Bailiffs were sent to their home and demanded to see a death certificate for their son Roman, who died just three days old.

Jess added: "It was awful. The thought of losing a child is one of the worst things to go through and in a way it made me me feel kind of dirty.

"It felt like I was using my son’s death to get out of something, and it just made me feel awful."

Now, mental health and debt advice charity Noah's Ark has warned that such bullying and intimidatory tactics could push someone else to take their own life.

Funding manager Andrew Sykes said: "I like the word 'bullying', because I’m afraid that’s what it is. The tactics are intimidatory

"I’m going to use the word ‘lie’, because most definitely lies are told to people to encourage them to pay.

"But I fear and I genuinely believe this: that someone at some point will take their own life because they’ve been pushed over the edge [by] a letter that came through the door, or a phone call, or a knock on the door."

Calderdale Council employed bailiffs to recover from Jess a bill that spiralled to £1,500 as she lost track of bills and spent time in hospital with her surviving twin and her husband, and took time off work to care for their other children.

Calderdale Council said it understood how distressing Jess’s experience must have been, and added: "The council works extremely hard to identify customers who are vulnerable or who are struggling with their council tax payments.

"We do not refer debts to external enforcement agents lightly, and the council will always explore other ways to collect income before we do so."

Jess, who was a student nurse at Huddersfield University when she found out she had a tricky pregnancy, has now paid off her debts, including fees to the bailiffs. It took two years.

She says she’s spoken out to highlight an issue that is still affecting people like her at a vulnerable time in their life.

She said: "I was naïve to it, but this is threatening and it’s fear-inducing: getting those letters, threats of court, threats of bailiffs.

"It’s just not nice, sending bailiffs to people’s doors and it doesn’t solve anything. It really takes away your trust in the council when there’s no empathy from them."

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