- What the Dickens? Sent to a debtors’ prison for contempt (Hussain v Vaswani)
- What are the practical implications of this case?
- What was the background?
- What did the court decide?
- Case details
Dispute Resolution analysis: Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit (see para 22 of the judgment) is set in the mid 1820s, it follows the story of Amy Dorrit, born and raised in a debtors’ prison. Her father, William Dorrit, was imprisoned as a debtor and at the time of the story he had spent some 20 years there. The story paints a grim picture of life in such a prison. Fast forward to 1869, and the Debtors Act of the same year. In short order the ‘new’ act prohibited the imprisonment of individuals for non-payment of debts, in all but the most limited of circumstances. But can an application for committal for contempt for a failure to abide by an undertaking to pay a debt override the long-standing rules under the Debtors Act 1969 (DA 1969), ostensibly preventing an individual from going to prison for the non-payment of a debt? That is the question in this case. Written by Richard Shepherd, barrister, at Albion Chambers, Bristol.
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