The Court of Appeal has overturned a decision of the lower court to hand out suspended prison sentences to two non-residents who failed to pay child maintenance as ordered by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC).

One of the miscreant fathers had been given a 21-day suspended sentence for non-payments totalling £2,895 and the other was given 42 days for non-payments totalling £10,959. The two men could be committed to prison for failing to pay arrears in accordance with a payment schedule, completion of which, in one case, could take more than 11 years.

The two opposed the rulings, claiming that they were a breach of their right to a fair trial under the Human Rights Act 1998.

The Court of Appeal accepted that the length of time during which each sentence could come into effect was unreasonable, concluding that an order for repayment of arrears backed by a suspended sentence should rarely exceed two years.


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