September 26, 2019 8:43 am Written by

Going To Jail For Owing Money

Can I Really Go To Prison For Being in Debt???

For those seeking the quick answer to these and other questions about being jailed or going to prison for not paying your accounts and bills, the answer is …… no!

However, as we will soon find out, there are places in the world where debtors are and can be jailed, and even here in the UK, there are bills if not paid, can….and I repeat can, bring about a custodial sentence in prison for non-payment.

Harsh, I know.

Debtor’s Prison

Many, and I do mean many years ago, there were debtor’s prisons, where if you owed money and could not pay your bills and debts, you were jailed.

You even had to pay whilst in jail, just to be there and still try to pay your other bills!

Amazingly bad!

However, things have changed today, being in debt is not a crime, and as such, you do not go to jail or prison for owing money.

There are some countries such as the UAE, that have some antiquated laws on their books that view non-payment of a loan a crime. This in part, is due to how the loans are paid, some by post dated cheques, and by “bouncing” a cheque, or having a cheque returned, it is a crime.

Council Tax

Believe it or not, Council Tax is a priority bill, like your rent or mortgage, utilities, food, etc. And while we may not all feel it is a priority bill, the Councils do feel it is a priority bill.

And the Councils can actually seek out the court’s authority to jail those who do not pay their Council Tax!

Between 2011 and 2017, nearly 700 people were “imprisoned for non-payment of Council Tax”!

But not just that but there “were also more than 7,000 suspended committal orders”.

Owing Council Tax is not a criminal offence, but it as a “civil matter” Councils can apply for a “commitment order” where those that owe Council Tax can be jailed.

Chris Daw, QC, has stated, “Council Tax enforcement has a disproportionate impact on women, including those who may need to flee their home, and enter a refuge, to escape from domestic abuse. This is because women are more likely to have bills in their own names and even moving to a refuge does not remove the legal obligation to pay Council Tax on the home left behind.”

He adds, This power of imprisonment is outdated and unfair. Its use imposes unjustifiable detriment on some of the most vulnerable members of society. Imprisoning council tax debtors delivers no benefit to the State or the wider public, while visiting unfairness on those subjected to such punishment. Laws allowing imprisonment for council tax debt could and should be revoked by ministerial order.”

“This is an anachronistic, unfair, uneconomic and inhumane law and it must be revoked, to prevent further injustice. How can the poor and vulnerable have confidence and trust in the legal system, when a law like this operates to target only them, while leaving the better-off untouched?”

While the fact is someone can be jailed for non-payment of Council Tax, it would be rare.

As for owing other debts and accounts, unless the debt was part of a criminal activity or action, owing money is not a crime and carries no prison or jail sentence. And even then, it is the crime that carries the penalty, not the owing of money.

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