DUBAI // The Misdemeanours Court that deals exclusively with bounced cheques handles up to 100 cases a week and opens at night, say judicial officials.
Although police have called for such cases to be treated as civil matters, the law views writing a bad cheque as a criminal offence, which has contributed to an increase in litigation in recent years.
The global financial crisis and dependency on credit in the Emirati economy generated a huge number of such cases: About 11,000 in 2008 and 15,000 in 2009, according to the Dubai Statistics Centre.
To tackle the increase, the criminal courts established a Misdemeanours Court circuit in 2010 to focus on the burgeoning problem. The chief justice of the Dubai Criminal Court, Judge Ahmed Saif, has said the specialised court handles about 100 cases each week, while Yousif al Suwaidi, the director of strategic planning at Dubai Courts, added the cheques court operates at night twice a week, with sessions beginning at 2pm.
About 14,000 bounced cheque cases are pending review at a single Dubai police station, a senior prosecution official said.
Ministry of Justice statistics show that of the 9.75 million cheques issued in 2009, about one of every 20 was sent back to banks.
According to the UK analyst Ameera Mohammed, between January and May 2009, 544,196 cheques bounced because of insufficient funds.
* Awad Mustafa