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Committal to prison

The Council takes committal action in the Local Magistrates Court for unpaid Council Tax or Business Rates

If we have not found it possible through the Enforcement Agents to collect all the necessary monies from you, our next stage is committal to prison proceedings. The application is for the local Magistrates Court to commit the non-payer to prison for up to 90 days. This will only happen, however, if they decide that the Council Tax or Business Rate remains unpaid because of your 'wilful refusal or culpable neglect.'  This will incur a minimum charge of £255.00 payable by you.

You will be proven of wilful refusal or culpable neglect if the Court decides that at the relevant time and at the time of the hearing you had the resources to pay off the debt. This will be decided through your answers to a series of questions that are used to identify the debtors' circumstances. The Council representative confirms that a Liability Order has been granted, and that the Enforcement Agents have been unsuccessful in levying distress. You will be asked why the Council Tax or Business Rates are still not paid, and if you are going to offer any payments. A Court official will then ask you questions about your income and outgoings. This is called a means enquiry. The Magistrates would base any decision on what was said at such an enquiry.

If you must serve a prison sentence - it still does not legally remove the debt.

The Magistrate will decide upon one of the following options:

Court Order with a suspended sentence

You will be ordered to pay a set amount and told that if you do not keep up the payments you will go to prison for a set amount of time (up to 3 months).

Court Order without a suspended sentence

You will be ordered to pay a set amount. If you do not keep up the payments, you will be ordered to come to Court again to explain why you have not paid. The Magistrates will then decide what to do next.

Write off all or some of the debt

The Magistrates can write off all or some of the Council Tax or Business Rates you owe, if they feel your situation deserves this. If only some of the debt is written off, the Magistrates may make a Court Order for the rest.

Take no action

The Magistrates may decide that no further action is appropriate. Cases are sometimes dismissed for other action to be taken. In the case of Council Tax, this could be for an attachment of earnings or benefit to be set up.


If more information or evidence is needed before a decision can be made, a case can be postponed until a later date.

Committal to Prison

The Magistrates can decide to send you to prison for up to 3 months.

If you do not attend the Court or contact the Council, an arrest warrant without bail may be issued for your arrest.  This will enable the Council to arrange for your arrest and detention until the next available sitting of the Magistrates.

Any warrant issued will incur further costs.

We only start committal action to collect Council Tax or Business Rates when we have to. If you are in arrears with your Council Tax or Business Rates and wish to discuss payments or the action being taken against you, please contact us as soon as possible.