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Absconding Debtors Act

Published: 1977

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Absconding Debtors (CAP. 3 1



Arrangement of Sections

1 . Short title.
2. Warrant of Arrest.
3. When warrant not to issue.
4. Application for warrant.
5. Form of affidavit.
6. Warrant to be delivered to Provost Marshal.
7 . When sum and costs paid to Provost Marshal or Bailiff.
8 . Procedure on Arrest.
9. Security.

10. Confessing Judgment.
1 1 . Imprisonment in default of security.
12. In certain cases Judge may discharge.
13. When defendant without means.
14. Committals to Prison.
15. Rules.
16. When Defendant entitled to discharge.
17. Application for discharge.
18. Saving.


Absconding Debtors (CAP. 3 3


(1st April, 1977.) 15/1971.

1. This Act may be cited as the Absconding Debtors short title.

2. It shall be lawful for a Judge of the High Court, Warrant of
by warrant under his hand, to authorise the Provost Marshal Arrest.
to arrest and bring before him or some other Judge of the
said Court any person alleged to be indebted and to be about
to quit Antigua and Barbuda, on the conditions and subject
to the procedure hereinafter set forth. Save as be provided
no person shall be arrested for debt on mesne process.

3. A warrant of arrest shall not issue against a mar- When warrant
not to issue.

ried woman or an infant, nor in respect of any debt less than
two hundred dollars, nor in respect of any debt that has been
due and owing for more than two years previously to the
application for such warrant, nor until an action shall have
been commenced by the alleged creditor against the debtor
for the recovery of such debt by writ especially endorsed as
provided by the Rules of the Supreme Court.

4. An application for a warrant of arrest shall be made Application for
only in respect of a debt or liquidated demand for a sum warrant'
of two hundred dollars or upwards and shall be founded on
affidavit made by some person who can swear positively
thereto, verifying the cause of action and the amount and
the date when the debt or demand accrued due, and stating
that in his belief there is no defence thereto, in the same
manner in every respect as the facts are stated in an applica-
tion for judgment in an action for a debt or liquidated de-
mand in which the defendant has appeared to a writ of sum-
mons specially endorsed.

5 . The intention of the defendant to quit Antigua and Form of

Barbuda shall in like manner appear on the same or another
affidavit showing satisfactorily the ground on which the depo-
nent believes, and the date on which, and the place for which
the debtor proposes to leave, as far as the same is known
to the deponent.


4 CAP. 3) Absconding Debtors

Warrant to be
delivcmd to 6. If the Judge grants the application for a warrant
Provolt Marshal. of arrest, the same shall forthwith be signed by the Judge

and placed in the hands of the Provost Marshal who shall
immediately cause the person against whom such warrant
is issued to be arrested.

When sum and
costs paid to 7. On such arrest as aforesaid being effected it shall
Provost Marshal be lawful for the Provost Marshal or any Bailiff of the High
or Bailiff. Court so authorised by him in that behalf to receive the sum

endorsed on the writ, together with the prescribed costs of
issuing and executing the same, and in such event he shall
forthwith endorse the writ with a statement of such receipt,
and return the same to the Registry of the High Court, and
account for the money so received in the same manner as
if the same had been received by him under a writ of execu-
tion or a judgment, and shall release the defendant forthwith
without any order of the Judge.

Procedure on

8. (1) The Provost Marshal or Bailiff shall at the time
of making such arrest, serve the defendant with the writ if
not already served and give notice on the prescribed form
to the plaintiff and forthwith convey the defendant in custody
before a Judge in Chambers, if a Judge be then present in
Antigua and Barbuda, and in the absence of the Judge before
the Registrar of the High Court who (the plaintiff being in
attendance or having been notified as aforesaid) may order
the defendant either to give security for the payment of the
alleged debt, or if default be made in the giving of such securi-
ty, to be committed to Prison or to be discharged, and may
on the application of either party, adjourn the matter to such
convenient date, for such purposes, and on such terms as
to custody, security, bail, the filing of further affidavits, or
otherwise, as he shall think fit.

(2) The Judge or Registrar as the case may be, may,
if he shall think fit, proceed to dispose of the action by trial
thereof, or, may direct such action to be set down for trial,
irrespective of the amount claimed, at the first convenient
sitting of the Court.

(3) There shall be no pleadings in any such action unless
a Judge shall otherwise order, but the affidavits filed on behalf
of the plaintiff and defendant respectively shall be taken to
set forth the respective grounds of claim and defence.


Absconding Debtors (CAP. 3 5

9. Security may be given by the deposit of money or Security.
by bond, or otherwise to the satisfaction of the Judge or
Registrar as the case may be.

10. The defendant may at any time confess judgment, Confessing
Judgment. and the same shall in such case be entered accordingly for

the debt, with such costs as may be agreed upon or taxed.

1 . On the determination of the issue, if the Judge Imprisonment default of in
or Registrar as the case may be, awards judgment in favour se,ur~ty~
of the plaintiff, he may on its being proved to his satisfac-
tion that the absence of the defendant will materially preju-
dice the plaintiff in the recovery of his judgment debt, order
the imprisonment of the said defendant in default of secur-
ity for such time as he may deem fit.

12. On the defendant appearing before him the Judge,
or Registrar as the case may be, shall, if he is satisfied that discharge.
the defendant is not about to quit Antigua and Barbuda,
or that his absence from ~ n t i b a nd-~arbuda will not
materially prejudice the plaintiff in respect of the recovery
of the debt for which the action has been brought, or if he
is not satisfied on hearing the parties and such evidence as
may be adduced, that the defendant owes the plaintiff a sum
of two hundred dollars or over, discharge the defendant
unconditionally, and may in such case, if he shall think fit,
award such damages (to include costs) in respect of the arrest
and detention, to be paid to the defendant in such time and
manner as he shall direct; and such damages shall on such
event be leviable by execution in the same manner as costs
under a judgment in an action.

13. If the defendant proves that he is without means When defendant
without means.

to pay the debt, and is not likely, if detained in Antigua
and Barbuda, to obtain such means, then, whether judg-
ment has been confessed or not, it shall in any case be lawful
for the Judge or Registrar, as the case may be, to refuse
to commit or detain the defendant on the ground that his
absence would not materially prejudice the plaintiff as

14. All committals to prison in pursuance of this Act, ~ , " ~ o ~ ~ t a l S 'O
shall be for failure to give security to satisfy the debt or to


6 CAP. 3 ) Absconding Debtors

obey the order of the Court, and shall be to Her Majesty's
Prison, and, in the event of the debt not having been admit-
ted or confessed, may be for such term, not exceeding three
months in any case, as the Judge or Registrar, as the case
may be, may deem sufficient to give time for the trial of
the action, and for no longer, and no person once commit-
ted under this Act shall again be arrested or committed in
respect of the same debt or any part thereof.

Rules. 15. Rules, forms, schedules of costs and fees in respect
of any procedure under this Act shall be made from time
to time by the Chief Justice.

When Defendant
entitled to 16. Any person committed under the provisions of
discharge. this Act shall be entitled, at any time after such commit-

ment, to an order of discharge to be made by a Judge or
Registrar as the case may be on-

(a) the payment or settlement of the debt; or
(b) the consent of the creditor; or
(c) the giving of security as required; or
(6) an ajudication of bankruptcy against the defend-

ant; or
(e) proof that he is without means, and that his

absence will not materially prejudice the plaintiff.

Application for
discharge. 17. A defendant desirous of applying to the High

Court for a discharge on any of the above grounds shall,
on notifying such desire, be brought before the said Court
by the Superintendent of Prison and the Judge or, in his
absence the Registrar, may refuse such application forthwith,
or may direct such notice thereof to be given to the plaintiff
as he shall think requisite, or, in case he is satisfied by suffi-
cient documentary evidence of either of the grounds men-
tioned in paragraphs (a), (b), (c), or (d) of section 16, may
if he shall think fit, order the discharge of the defendant
without calling on the plaintiff.

Cap. 131.

18. Nothing in the Debtors Act shall in any way affect
any right or power under this Act to arrest or imprison any
person for any debt.