A man from Corby has been told he must pay the £9,609 he owes in child maintenance or go to jail.
Gareth Hammett, 43, appeared before magistrates last Tuesday (April 26) over his refusal to pay the arrears.
In a rare step, magistrates ruled that Hammett, of West Glebe Road, had culpably neglected to pay the sum. The bench imposed a suspended jail term, ordering him to pay it back at a rate of £200 per month or face six weeks in jail.
The case at Northampton Magistrates’ Court was brought by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Child Support Act 1991 allows the DWP to take non-payers to court and apply to magistrates to remove their driving licence, passport or, in the most serious of cases, to jail them.
In the year up to December 2021, only 105 suspended prison sentences for child maintenance arrears were issued across the whole of England and Wales.
The DWP says sanctions are used as a last resort and only used when every other method of recovering unpaid child maintenance has been tried. The Child Maintenance Service only pursues these sanctions when they believe the parent can pay but is refusing to do so.
Child support is used as a means of a child’s costs when the parents are separated. Non-resident parents can come to a non-formal mutual agreement or go through the Child Maintenance Service.
Six weeks is the maximum jail term open to magistrates for child maintenance defaulters.