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Commital to Prison/Mags Court - PLEASE HELP!!

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  • Commital to Prison/Mags Court - PLEASE HELP!!

    Hello

    I would be most grateful for some urgent advice from those in the know. I have read some threads and understand the legal clauses i.e. Willful Refusal and Culpable Neglect etc but would like to post the specific situation.

    I have a friend who has got himself into a bit of a pickle due to a redundancy, new baby and genuinely been unable to afford to pay his council tax. The arrears are approximately 5k - 6k and span over 4/5 years.

    I did not know about the situation until he shared it with me else I could have influenced him to talk to someone to stop it getting to this stage.

    Unfortunately, he was also not aware of the 'priority debt' principle and stopped making payments all together to be able to feed, clothe his kids and meet day to day expenses. He does not have credit cards and has not spent on any 'luxuries' and could not even afford to send his family members to a funeral in a different country so please be nice. I am just interested in getting the due process and some factual advice rather than a slating.

    He has now received a letter titled 'COUNCIL TAX APPLICATION FOR COMMITAL WARRANT' from a London Borough council.

    I can scan and post the specific letter if needed but it lists the debt owed going back to April 2008 and years unpaid. 08-14. The letter states the enforcement agents have been unsuccessful and have passed the debt back to the council. They have also enclosed a 'means assessment form'.

    When I found out I encouraged him to touch base with the council to negotiate a payment plan and the officer/council tax person is playing hardball stating that the full balance needs to be paid or she will make an application for commital to prison! The hearing is in less than a week.

    He is really concerned and with 2 kids does not want to attend the hearing and is looking for a way out, e.g. sell his belongings, borrow money where he can (this is where I come in but do not see it as a long term solution) and it may strain our friendship. Friendship and money never mix!

    I think it is scare tactics and he said he does not want to take the risk of going to court even though I think the Mags may setup a plan.

    This was a genuine error through unaffordability, he has no credit cards, no mortgage and can just about afford the rent and feed the kids but understandably is really worried as he has never been in trouble before and worries about a criminal record.

    Can he go to prison? Where does he stand? What is the best thing to do?

    I have also advised that he goes to CAB but is desperate and the council are not being very helpful.

    Grateful for some advice.

    Thank You.

    Scoobster
    Tags: None

  • #2
    Re: Commital to Prison/Mags Court - PLEASE HELP!!

    Whatever happens he MUST attend the Hearing otherwise a Warrant could be issued for his immediate arrest. If he has had genuine hardship then the chances of a custodial sentence are slim but he must be able to prove this. Time is of the essence if the Hearing is within a week & don't think CAB are the route to go. He is going to have to armed with a comprehensive Income & Expenditure list - a good one can be had from https://nedcab.cabmoney.org.uk/quickfs.asp . He must be frank & honest with what he fills in. Beware if he has a Sky Package as a Movie/Sports package will be seen as frivolous.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Commital to Prison/Mags Court - PLEASE HELP!!

      Thank You for your response ploddertom.

      I have a slight update as of yesterday evening which I will go into in shortly.

      Before that, my understanding (which may have been wrong) was that the first stage would be a liability order to prove he is liable? Is that not correct or is it automatically inferred that he is liable?

      As far as I know the debt has gone from Council to Bailiffs and back to Council and then application for comittal warrant. Have all the stages been exhausted now?

      The Update

      He has had another conversation with the council who have agreed that if he can cover 65% of the debt then they will stop the court action and he is attempting to negotiate an 'extension' for the rest of the term.

      Council have stated they want payment by FRIDAY if he wants to take up this option.

      Would it be unrealistic to ask for 6 months to pay of the remaining 35% of the debt and request it in writing?

      If this does end up going to court then you mentioned CAB may not be the right way to go. Who would you suggest?

      Thanks

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Commital to Prison/Mags Court - PLEASE HELP!!

        Are they asking for 65% of the money owed by Friday? If so where is the money coming from if they can get that much in a couple of days why has the debt built up

        If iam wrong I think that the Council are going to ask for a large payment each week/month is the debtor able to do this. Statistics show that committal is very rare as long as payment is offered how much needs to be agreed and kept to.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Commital to Prison/Mags Court - PLEASE HELP!!

          Before that, my understanding (which may have been wrong) was that the first stage would be a liability order to prove he is liable? Is that not correct or is it automatically inferred that he is liable?

          As far as I know the debt has gone from Council to Bailiffs and back to Council and then application for comittal warrant. Have all the stages been exhausted now?
          A Liability order would have been issued before bailiffs were instructed. It sounds as though he has been doing an ostrich job for years, so he may not have noticed the LO letters!

          it lists the debt owed going back to April 2008 and years unpaid. 08-14
          what is the situation about this years CT - 2015-16 ? he mustn't make an agreement to pay the previous years that leaves him unable to pay this years - or indeed next years after April.

          Is he able to make repayments now? How much?

          Was there a period he was out of work - was he claiming benefits eg Housing Benefit?

          Does he have a partner? If not, is he getting a 25% single person deduction from his council tax?

          You say he has no credit card debt. Have you asked about other types of debt: catalogues, Brighthouse-style rent to buy, HP on a car, payday/logbook/guarantor loans, overdraft, utility bill debts?

          Is there any reason why he ignored these debts apart from not having enough money - mental health issues? literacy problems? dealing with sick/disabled children?

          with 2 kids does not want to attend the hearing

          He MUST attend the hearing. He won't see much of his kids if he gets sent to prison? As a friend the best thing you can do is offer to go with him to the hearings.

          and is looking for a way out, e.g. sell his belongings, borrow money where he can
          if he has anything of any value to sell this could be a good option. But second hand DVDs aren't going to raise much... Borrowing money is not a good idea unless he can afford to repay it.

          I suggest contacting his councillors today and asking for their help in getting the hearing postponed so he can take debt advice and work out a proper plan.

          Comment

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