Fines for bounced cheques up to Dh200,000 in Dubai
People in Dubai who bounce cheques up to the value of Dh200,000 will no longer face the prospect of prison.
The order comes into effect next month and the decision has been circulated to prosecutors. The removal of the threat of prison for people who fail to honour their cheques is one of eight offences that now can be settled with fines instead of jail sentences.
The decision will relieve pressure on the emirate’s courts, allowing for more time to be spent on cases involving more serious crimes such as money laundering or assault, said Ayman Abdul Hakam, head of Dubai’s One Day Court, which was set up this year to handle minor cases.
The number of criminal cases handled by Dubai’s courts is expected to drop significantly after a decision to downgrade a number of minor offences to misdemeanours to be dealt with by a fine.
From bouncing cheques and failing to pay rent, to sending insults in person or by phone, many offenders will no longer be put through the court system.
The order will come into effect next month after being announced by Dubai Attorney General Essam Al Humaidan.
The decision, which was distributed to chief prosecutors last week, stated that eight offences can be settled outside court.
This includes cases that involve bouncing cheques for amounts not exceeding Dh200,000, the failure to pay fees or costs of up to Dh50,000 and issuing insults in front of others, or in relation to family honour.
The change also means that anyone who has attempted suicide, and failed, would be fined and not prosecuted in court. Ayman Abdul Hakam, head of Dubai’s One Day Court, which was set up this year to handle minor cases, expects that far fewer people will go to court and need to pay to hire a lawyer.
He estimated that 35 to 45 per cent of cheque-related cases will be dropped in the first month.
“This means that judges will have more time to focus on other major cases such as money laundering, assault, and cyber crime,” the judge said.
“It is evident that the UAE law is developing, and this development is the result of great efforts made to identify any required changes to existing laws, in order to better serve the community and further position the UAE among the most advanced countries,” the judge said.
Earlier this year, Emirates NBD chief executive Shayne Nelson sparked a renewed debate over the matter of bounced cheques when he told a Dubai radio station that he did not believe it was right that the action could land someone in jail.
But he drew a clear distinction between account holders who could end up being punished for making a genuine mistake, and fraudsters who use dud cheques on purpose to rip people off.
“For fraud, yes, of course,” he said.
“But sometimes people get in trouble not due to their own fault,” he told Dubai Eye.
“You see SMEs (small and medium enterprises) get into trouble because someone hasn’t paid them.
“I think we as a society have to be more balanced on this issue.”
This means that judges will have more time to focus on other major cases such as money laundering JUDGE AYMAN ABDUL HAKAM Head of Dubai’s One Day Court