Some people who contact Trust Deed Scotland® are worried that not paying their debts could mean they could go to prison for debt.
In almost all cases, the answer to this is no. No, you cannot be sent to jail for having debts.
Having debt is not a crime. In modern-day Scotland, there’s no possible way you could go to jail for non-payment of most types of debt, unsecured or otherwise. Any suggestion by a creditor that you could be sent to prison for not paying a debt is simply not true, and if they threaten this you should consider making a complaint.
Ever since the Debtors (Scotland) Act of 1880, people in Scotland cannot be imprisoned for not paying their debts.
Having unaffordable debt can be seriously worrying. Whether it’s credit cards, bank loans, car parking tickets, or your bank overdraft, owing money and not being able to pay it is stressful and anxiety-inducing.
However, there are some exceptions to the rule. Non-payment of criminal fines where the fine is over £500. Non-payment of maintenance for a child, or a former spouse. In this case, it needs to be proven that you have the money to pay the debt, but are simply refusing to pay. If you’re unable to pay on the grounds of affordability, then this is a different matter.
It is not possible to go to prison directly as a result of the non-payment of council tax debt in Scotland. This varies regionally in the UK – in England and Wales, this may not always be true. Getting sent to prison over debts there is normally only possible as a last resort if you’ve ignored the debt, or refused to pay a court order.
TV licence – It is possible to be sent to jail over TV licence fines in Scotland. Again, this varies depending on your UK country you reside in, as prison for debts like TV licence evasion is more likely in Northern Ireland, Wales and England.
In acts of criminality – Where you fraudulently obtain credit through deception, then it’s no longer a civil case and you can be prosecuted appropriately. However, this is NOT due to the failure to repay a credit card debt or any other type of unsecured debt.
Can I ignore debts if I won’t be sent to prison for debt?
However, just because you can’t go to prison for debt, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore your debts.
Creditors can still apply to have you sequestrated or can utilise other serious forms of enforcement action against you. A decree – Scotland’s equivalent of a County Court Judgement (CCJ). Details of your decree will appear on a public register for six years. A more realistic creditor enforcement action in Scotland for non-payment of council tax arrears, may be a Wage Arrestment.
More frequently, unsecured lenders will serve default notices on you, which will impact your ability to get further credit, even after you do eventually repay the debt to the creditor. And, at that point; much additional interest and charges may have been applied.
If you are not paying your credit card debts, out of principle – or a complaint that you feel is valid against your lender; make sure you continue to make as much payment as you can afford and use the proper complaint channels such as the Financial Ombudsman Service.
If you’re not repaying debt due to being over-committed or a recent change in circumstances, don’t worry, you are not alone. Every year in Scotland thousands of people contact Trust Deed Scotland® and other bodies looking to help with debts.
We can say that no one we’ve advised has been put in jail for not paying their unsecured debts and in almost all cases, we’ve been able to offer Trust Deeds, Debt Arrangement Scheme or alternatives as a way of managing their debts and looking forward to regaining control of their finances.
Regardless of whether you are looking to avoid going to prison for debt, or get on top of your bills – you should always ensure that you repay priority bills first and foremost. Find out more about what are priority debts in Scotland.
Where to get Expert Scottish Debt Help?
If you are struggling with unaffordable debts, don’t allow yourself to be bullied with creditor threats. Call Trust Deed Scotland® on 0141 221 0999 for free confidential Scottish debt help.