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Government must now amend legislation to end practice of jailing people for non payment of debts – Ó Snodaigh

19 June, 2009 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD


Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has welcomed the overturning of a jailing order of a woman who was unable to repay a debt to her Credit Union. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said between 2002 and 2007 1,000 people were jailed, in contempt of court, having failed to repay a debt.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “I welcome the High Court ruling that the jailing of a woman over non payment of a debt is in breach of the constitution. This practice is also against the European Convention and is against a backdrop of an outdated, constrained and extremely expensive bankruptcy system.

“Between 2002 and 2007 1,000 people were jailed, in contempt of court, having failed to repay a debt. The numbers suffering over-indebtedness in the 26 counties are rising at an astronomical rate. The figure for non-housing and non-investment related unpaid credit balances rose from €3.9 billion in second quarter 1999 to €18.8 billion in the third quarter 2008.

“Hopefully this judgement will bring about an end to the wholly inappropriate practice of jailing people for being unable to repay their debts. This practice not only incurs huge unnecessary costs to the state but it is discriminatory in the extreme. The Government should now act accordingly and amend the Fines Bill to bring civil debt enforcement practice in line with the constitution.” ENDS

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