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Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

Section 9: Powers of court on referral of debtor’s case

Where the referral has been made under Section 6, i.e. where the debtor is in default of a collection order, the responsible court may give additional time to pay, allow payment by way of instalments, impose an attachment of earnings order or direct an application for deduction from benefits, make a bank account order (even if the collection officer has not previously made an interim bank account order), make a vehicle seizure order, issue a warrant of distress, make a supervised activity order or in the case of a child an attendance centre order, commit an adult debtor to prison in default of payment or where he is in default of distress, or remit the whole or part of the sum due (Section 9(1)).

Where the referral has been made under Section 8, i.e. where no collection order has been made, the court can decide to impose one at this point. If it does, then all of the options will be open to it. If the court decides not to impose a collection order, then all of the options bar the deductions from benefits and attachment of earnings orders will be open to it.  Deductions/attachments orders will not be available as these require a collection officer to administer them (Section 9(2)).

This Section sets out the sequence of using the above options and provides for when they may or may not be used (Section 9(3) – (5)). The Section stipulates that where the court is dealing with someone aged under 18 or decides in the case of an adult to make a supervised activity order or commit an adult debtor to prison whether or not in default of distress, the court must give reasons for its decision (Section 9(6)).

This Section provides for the collection officer to attend at the hearing where he has imposed an interim bank account order and allows for representations from the deposit-taker as well as the debtor as to why the order should not be made (Section 9(7)). Where the court makes a bank account order, but the amount in the account is not sufficient to discharge the sum due, the court may use any of the other actions specified in this Section, in order to recover the outstanding amount (Section 9(8)).

If an interim bank account order was imposed but the court decides not to make a full order or uses a different enforcement option from subsection (1) of this Section, then the interim order is discharged (Section 9(9)).  Where a full bank account order is made the interim order will only be discharged when full payment is received (as provided in Section 22(5)).

In a case where the sum due was imposed not as a result of a conviction, for example, a penalty notice, then the date of conviction is to be treated the same as the date when the debtor’s liability to pay the sum due arose (Section 9(10)).

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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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