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Can you be jailed for debts in Scotland?

  • Sharon McDougall -
  • 27th April 2021 -
  • 2 minutes to read

When you’re in serious debt, it’s possible that some creditors might threaten you with prison if you fall behind with repayments. This is simply an empty threat in the vast majority of cases, made by people or organisations to make you repay.

The Debtors (Scotland) Act, 1880, made it impossible for people in Scotland to go to jail for being in debt, apart from in certain circumstances. Inability to pay is not one of these instances, but deliberately failing to pay certain types of debt can lead to imprisonment.

Being in debt is not a crime - it’s an extremely demoralising and worrying situation that many people need help with. Whether you have a single large debt that’s become impossible to repay, or you owe money to a number of different creditors, it’s important to obtain specialist advice on the best way forward.

When can you be jailed for debts in Scotland?

There are certain situations where you can be jailed for debts in Scotland. Deliberately refusing to pay the following types of debt can lead to imprisonment:

  • Court fines
  • TV license fees
  • Child maintenance payments (plus other types of financial support for a former husband or wife)
  • Criminal fines of £500 or more

The court will expect a creditor to have attempted all possible forms of debt enforcement in these cases, however, before handing down a prison sentence, and also to see evidence of your deliberate refusal to pay.

What is debt enforcement?

Debt enforcement measures in Scotland, also known as ‘diligence,’ typically include arrestment of earnings whereby your employer deducts a fixed sum from your earnings in repayment of the debt(s).

Bank arrestment may also be an enforcement measure available to your creditors. This effectively freezes a sum of money in your bank account so that it can’t be withdrawn, and is used in payment of the debt.

How do you escape debt in Scotland?

Inability to pay debt isn’t a criminal offence – it’s a situation that can be remedied by entering into a formal debt procedure. You might be eligible for a debt payment plan within the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS), for example.

This is a scheme backed by the Scottish government, which allows you to repay your debts in full over an extended time period. Two other official debt solutions are the Scottish Trust Deed and sequestration, and both involve writing off a proportion of the debts that you can’t afford to repay.

Seek professional help to escape serious debt

If you’re worried that you might be jailed for debts in Scotland, our team at Scotland Debt Solutions will provide the reassurance you need. We’ve been helping people in Scotland to escape debt since 1989, and can offer a reassuring professional presence when financial troubles seem insurmountable.

Please get in touch with our expert team to arrange a free, same-day consultation. Our team works from a network of offices around Scotland - we can let you know the best options available and support you in escaping debt for good.

Sharon McDougall
Sharon McDougall
Manager
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