Three men in debtors’ jail

Three men in debtors’ jail

BY PETE SANKEY
Senior associate editor
sankeyp@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 31, 2020

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THE colonial Debtors Act of 1872 still allows Jamaicans to be thrown in jail if unable to honour their debts.

In fact, information provided by the Court Administration Division, under the Access to Information Act, showed that up to July 15, 2020, three Jamaican men were spending time in debtors’ jail because they are unable to find money borrowed from individuals.

They owed $66,017.40; $585,000; and $705,017.30, respectively, according to the document.

“The debtors are held at the main police stations in the capital of the relevant parishes. In general, they are kept at the nearest lock-up to their homes,” according to Kadiesh Fletcher, acting director of client services, communication and information at the Court Administration Division.

When asked if the debts would affect the credit rating of the individuals, Fletcher, who approved release of the information, said: “This does not fall within the remit of the judiciary.”

According to Section 2 of the Debtors Act (1892), “Any court having civil jurisdiction may commit to prison, with or without hard labour, for a term not exceeding six weeks, or until payment of any debt, or instalment of any debt due from him in pursuance of any order or judgement of that or any other competent court.”

Time spent in a debtors’ jail, however, does not mean a write-off of money owed, according to Section 3 of the Debtors Act.

“No imprisonment under this section shall operate as a satisfaction or extinguishment of any debt, or demand, or cause of action, nor deprive any person of any right to take out execution against the lands, goods, or chattels of the person imprisoned in the same manner as if such imprisonment had not taken place,” says the Act, which remains on the books .

According to the Act: “Sequestration (seizure) against the property of a debtor may be issued by any court in the same manner as if such debtor had been actually arrested.”

It said, too, that, “nothing in the Act shall in any way affect any right or power under the bankruptcy to arrest or imprison any person”.

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