15 NOVEMBER 1935, Page 3

Debtors in Prison An important circular has been addressed by

the Home Secretary to magistrates throughout the country, designed to effect some reduction in the alarming number of debtors committed to prison. It is pointed out that machinery for reform is provided by the Money Payments Act, 1985, which comes into operation on January 1st. Any steps, for reform of the penalties for this offence must be taken with caution, lest the security Of those who sell goods or services on credit should be undermined ; yet the necessity for reform is obvious when it is stated that 20,000 people a year—more than One-third of the total imprisonments—are incarcerated for non-payment of debts, mainly through non-compliance. with Court orders. The Home Secretary advises that the means of the defaulter should be carefully examined by the justices in his presence before any question of imprisonment arises, and due regard taken of the ability or inability to pay at once or by instalments before any decision is .taten. This should do something to reduce the large annual number of imprisonments for non-pay- ment of fines, maintenance orders or rates. Payment by weekly deductions from wages is one expedient that should be considered. * * * *