Don’t jail them
Party leaders opposed to imprisoning those who owe maintenance
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Opposition Leader Mia Mottley today agreed that people who owe maintenance and other debt should not be imprisoned when they do not pay up.
The two expressed similar views as they contributed to debate on the Maintenance (Amendment) Bill 2014 in Parliament today.
Mottley called for a review of the Debtors Act which was passed in the 19th century, insisting that it was outdated.
Mottley said authorities also had to take into consideration the current unemployment situation in Barbados.
“It was clear to me that the Act was passed at a time when it contemplated not ongoing maintenance payments but a single debt . . . Because the legislation is ill-suited to a modern Barbados where the debt is incurred on a weekly and monthly basis, we have a practice where people are picked up for arrears and taken straight to Dodds without any determination of their capacity to pay,” she said.
“More than 15,000 persons have lost jobs in this society during the last five or so years. You cannot assume that because arrears have accumulated that is because the people have the money to pay. In fact, I would assume that it is because they cannot pay, not that they will not pay . . . No one should go to prison because of an inability to pay a debt.”
Mottley insisted that debt was a reality in Barbados under the current economic circumstances while noting that many people faced time in prison not only for arrears in maintenance but also for failure to meet their hire purchase commitments.
Contributing to the debate later in the evening, the Prime Minister expressed similar sentiments.
“I do not think –– have not thought for a long time –– that men hiding about from marshals of the court is a credible or sustainable solution to the problem with which we are dealing,” Stuart said.
“I do not believe that it helps any child. Sometimes children actually become bitter with their mothers for putting their fathers in a position where they have to go to prison to spend time for not paying maintenance. I do not think any child likes to have it said about their father that he went to prison for anything. My views on this extend beyond maintenance for children. I have fundamental problems, as a lawyer, as a politician, as a student of jurisprudence, as a student of philosophy, with anybody having to go to prison for debt. We have to look at the law related to that and come to some sane conclusions on it,” he insisted.
However, Stuart dismissed Opposition claims that the situation with dead-beat fathers was a problem found only in countries experiencing recession.
He pointed out that fathers owing CAN$3.2 billion (BDS$5.6 billion) in maintenance was a big controversy in Canada.
“So this is not a Barbadian problem. This is a problem that affects societies across the Western world.”
ALSO If you sign up for Barbados Today before independence you could WIN a 2014 Honda City! Go here for full details http://bit.ly/1oCHnej.