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THE SMALL DEBTS ACT. On the opening of the Court of Requests, Bristol, last week, the learned assessor, A. Palmer, jun., Esq., took the opportunity of explaining the principal provisions of the Act passed last session for the better recovery of Small Debts, and as the subject is one of importance to the trading community, we give his observations in full. He said-Mr. Chairman, and Gentlemen Commissioners, this being the first day on which this Court has been held since the "Act for the better securing the payment of Small Debts" was printed, I will, with your permission, state the material points, in respect of which the Act affects this Court. The two principal features of the Act are-Ist. to afford to creditors more ample means of obtaining payment of their debts and 2ndly--to enable Her Majesty with the advice of her Privy Council to enlarge the jurisdiction and district of courts. With respect to the 1st.—If any person is, or shall be, indebted to any other, in a sum of X20 besides costs of suit, by force of any judgment obtained, or of any order for the payment thereof, or of any costs in any court, which judgment or order shall have been obtained from any conrt of compe- tent jurisdiction in England, including the Superior courts at Westminster, and all inferior courts, except our Court of Con- science, the creditor may obtain a summons from this court, provided that the debtor shall reside or be within the jurisdic- tion of this court, requiring his appearance in court and on his appearing, he is to be examined, lst.-touching the manner and time of contracting hi, debt; 2ndly,-the means or prospect of payment he then had; 3rdly,-the property or means of payment he still has or may have and 4thly,—the disposal he may have made of auy property since contracting the debt. And the creditor may himself be examined touching his claim. The court may then make an order on the debtor for payment by iustalments or otherwise and there is a power to order the debtor to be committed to the common gaol, for any time not exceeding forty days, in either one of the following cases. 1st,—In case he shall' not attend as required by the summons, and shall not allege a sufficient excuse for not attending. 2ndly,_if, attending, he shall refuse to disclose his property, or his transactions respecting the same, or re- specting the contracting of the debt or shall not make satisfac- tory answer thereof. 3rdly,—if be shall appear to have been guilty of fraud, in contracting the debt; 4thly or of having wilfully contracted it, without reasonable prospect of being able to pay it othly,—or of having concealed or made away with his property, in order to defeat his cre,ii.org • 6thly — or if having the means of paying his debt by instalments or other wise he shall not pay the same at such times as the court shall order, or as the cuurt shall have ordered, in which the original judgment shall have been obtained or order made. And this to a great extent, seeins to be equivalent to the power of im- prisoning the debtor prior to the recent abolition of the power of imprisonment, for in no case was an instalment ordered to be paid that the court did not consider that the debtor had the means of paying. I repeat, gentlemen, that in either of the cases which I have specified, there is a power to commit the debtor for not exceeding forty days; and no protection, or interim or other order, issuing out of any court of bankruptcy, or for the relief of insolvent debtors, nor any certificate ob- tained after such order of imprisonment under this Act, is to be availahle to any debtor imprisoned under an order by vir- tue of this Act. And here it is material to remark that no such imprisonment shall in any wise operate as satisfaction or extinguishment of any debt or demand; a provision which is more favourable to the creditor than the old law was,as impri- sonment under that was a satisfaction of the debt. Any per. son, however, imprisoned, who shall have paid or satisfied the debt or dtmand, or the instalments thereof payable, and costs remaining due at the time of the order of imprisonment being made, tnd all subsequent costs, is to be discharged by leave of the judge of this court; which judge by the Act is declared to be the assessor. There is also a provision inserted with the view of giving to judges of cotirts in which proceedings shall be had for the recovery of debts, the like powers in the suits for the recovery of them, which they might exercise if judgment and a summons had been obtained. The second principal feature of the Act is, its empowering Her Majesty, with the advice of her Privy Council, to enlarge the jurisdiction of this court, which is at present extremely contracted, being confined to those debts under JE15, which would be recoverable in the courts of common law under the common money counts in an action of assumpsit, to all debts and demands whether on balance of account or otherwise or damage arising out of any express or imp'ied agreement not exceeding E20, and also to enlarge the district of this court, whereby a population of very many thousand persons in the vicinity of our city, and trading with it, but who are not within the jurisdiction of this court, may be brought within its jurisdiction. There is also an important power, by means of which execution, either against goods or the person of the debtor may be exercised out of the jurisdiction of the court. I think I have stated enough to show that a vast benefit will be conferred on the public by the Act to which I have all tided. The Court then proceeded to dispose of the cases set down for hearing.



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