Poverty is not a crime: ending imprisonment for debt

Did you know that you can end up in prison for owing council tax or for not paying the TV licence fines? Shocking but true. Furthermore, the criminalisation of debt is an issue that disproportionately affects women.

In 2020, 75 per cent of all prosecutions for licence fee non-payment were against women, despite women being half of licence holders. It is the most common offence for which women are prosecuted, accounting for an astonishing 30 per cent of all female prosecutions. Defaulting on your TV licence fine can land you in prison. Read more about our TV licence project here.

Owing council tax is not a crime, and yet this civil debt lands roughly 100 people a year in prison. With a number of councils employing aggressive enforcement tactics and magistrates routinely misapplying the law, many have been wrongfully sent to prison in circumstances where they had to choose between paying the council or paying for food. Read more about our council tax debt project here.

Criminalising debt is an ineffective and unnecessary method of ensuring debtors keep up their payments. Poverty is not a crime and should never be treated as one.

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