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Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

Section 6: Powers of collection officer in relation to debtor

This Section confers a power of referral on the court on the collection officer, at any time during the collection process he sees fit (Section 6(1)). The matter is referred to the court level where the original sentence was passed or which is responsible for the enforcement of the penalty.

The Section allows for a debtor to apply to the collection officer, either orally or in writing, for an extension of the period for repayment, payment by way of instalments, or amendment of the instalments dates and/or amounts (Section 6(2)).

The collection officer also has the power to make an attachment of earnings order or apply for a deduction from benefits order, whether or not on application of the debtor and whether or not he has consented to such orders being imposed (Section 6(3)). Where a debtor is both employed and on benefits, the collection officer can use his discretion in deciding which order to pursue (Section 6(3)(c)).

Section 6(4) requires the collection officer to consider allowing extra time or payment by instalments before making a deductions application or attachment order.

The Section also provides that where attachment or deduction orders are inappropriate or unworkable, and if the collection officer is satisfied that the debtor has funds in an account in his sole name, then the collection officer may pursue an interim bank account order (Section 6(5)). Where an interim bank account order is made, the collection officer must refer the matter to the appropriate court for a hearing to decide on whether a full order should be made.

Where the collection officer’s other powers are unsuccessful, he may request the court to make a vehicle seizure order against the debtor, if satisfied that the debtor has funds available to pay the sum due, the vehicle in question is registered to the debtor and the sale of the vehicle would discharge the sum owing including the likely charges and costs of the sale (Section 6(6) and (7)).

The collection officer may not request a vehicle seizure order without first informing the debtor of his intentions and affording the debtor an opportunity to pay the sum owing. There is no requirement to inform the debtor of his intentions with regard to an interim bank order (Section 6(8)).

Where a collection officer has referred the matter to court, he may not thereafter exercise any of his collection powers (Section 6(9)).

Where a collection officer makes complaint to a magistrates’ court, a summons may be issued requiring the debtor to appear before the appropriate court for the hearing (Section 6 (10)).

The Section makes it an offence for a person informed of a possible application for a vehicle seizure order to attempt to hide or dispose of the vehicle in question in order to frustrate the application (Section 6(11)), the penalty which is for a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale (Section 24).

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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