Security and protective services - Employees serving court papers

Work-related violence case studies

Intellekt Ltd is a small company based in Oxford with five full-time employees. Their work includes:

All employees work alone for around one-third of their time. They usually work independently on their own cases but can ask for assistance or to work with other staff. All staff are considered to be mobile workers as they travel within the UK and overseas.

Key risks

Examples of incidents

Successful measures

Training and information

Informal observation training: new employees work alongside experienced staff to observe and learn how to do the job. They can see in practice the company's 'mild-mannered' way of interacting with people, an approach designed to avoid confrontation and violence.

Non-confrontational and non-antagonistic approach: In certain work, for example when serving court papers, it is important that employees are not confrontational - especially if a respondent has a history of violence. Intellekt considers this to be the most successful form of violence prevention.

Examples of a non-confrontational approach:

Liaison with the police: it is important to keep in contact with the police, pre-warning them of intended visits and potential risks.

Verbal and non-verbal conflict resolution techniques: body language such as open hand gestures, attitudes such as 'not meeting aggression with aggression', and being passive, help to prevent the escalation of violence.

Work environment and equipment

Staff do not serve papers in a public house: there is a danger of violence from people who may be drunk and aggressive.

Mobile phones: staff use these to keep contact with the office or other agents. Cars parked facing outwards: staff park their cars facing outwards so they can make a quick escape if necessary. They also use old cars in less affluent areas to prevent drawing attention to themselves.

Keeping house doors open: if possible, employees try to ensure that doors are not closed behind them, so that they maintain their personal space and escape route.

Adapting dress: to avoid drawing attention to themselves, employees adapt their clothes to the particular job or work environment. They may dress casually in jeans and t-shirts or, when they need to reflect 'authority' (eg when seizing goods), they may wear a formal suit.

Job design

Risk assessment: there is a full risk assessment before doing any job. Company solicitors can provide details of offenders and particular locations to help assess the risk of violence.

Being prepared: employees 'prepare for the worst' in terms of violence and aggression, so they are better able to deal with situations if they arise.

Doubling up and providing cover: two people may attend a job if it is potentially difficult. Sometimes other private eye companies may be asked to back staff up as a favour that will be returned. Also, to improve safety without incurring extra costs on trips overseas, employees are allowed to take a friend with them, provided the friend pays.

Frequent contact: team members contact other staff in the office to give details of their intentions, location and timings. They telephone the office when they have completed serving papers or other work.

Inferring legal status: respondents are more likely to be co-operative if they believe that staff are agents of the court (eg 'I have papers from the County Court'). This gives some degree of authority and therefore protection.

Avoiding car repossession work: the very nature of seizing someone's car can aggravate a person. Intellekt tends to avoid this kind of work because the potential for violence is too high.

Turning a job down: staff can refuse a job if they consider it too risky.

Less effective measures

Some measures can be less effective than others, or have disadvantages:

The benefits and the costs

The benefits

No incidents: No member of staff has been assaulted or felt the need to leave the scene in the past ten years. This suggests that the measures are very effective, given the potentially violent environment in which the company operates.

Confidence: staff report more confidence and less fear in their jobs. They do not avoid certain tasks because of the risks, which means that more work gets done.

Fewer days off: there has been no staff absence resulting from assaults or related sickness. This means that the company is more profitable.

A positive image: the company maintains a professional image.

Client satisfaction: there are few complaints from clients about how the company works.

The costs

Updated 2022-12-13