The number of criminal cases handled by Dubai's courts is expected to drop significantly after the announcement that a range of minor offences have been downgraded to misdemeanours and will be dealt with by a fine.
From bouncing cheques and failing to pay rent, to sending insults in person or by phone, many offenders will no longer be put through the court system.
The criminal order will come into effect in December after being announced by Dubai Attorney General Essam Al Humaidan.
The decision, which was distributed to chief prosecutors last week, stated that eight offences can be settled outside court.
This includes cases that involve bouncing cheques for amounts not exceeding Dh200,000, the failure to pay fees or costs of not more than Dh50,000 and issuing insults, whether directly, indirectly, in front of others, or related to family honour. The change also means that anyone who has attempted suicide, and failed, would be fined and not prosecuted in court.
Ayman Abdul Hakam, head of Dubai's One Day Court, which was set up to handle minor cases earlier this year, expects far fewer people to go to court, and need to pay to hire a lawyer.
He estimated that 35 to 45 per cent of cheque-related cases will drop in the first month.
“This means that judges will have more time to focus on other major cases like money laundering, assaults, and cyber crime,” the judge said.
“It is evident that the UAE law is developing and this development is the result of great efforts made to identify any required changes to existing laws, in order to better serve the community and further position the UAE among most advanced countries,” said the judge.
Earlier this year, Emirates NBD CEO Shayne Nelson sparked a renewed debate surrounding bounced cheques when he told a radio station that he did not believe it was right that the action could land someone in jail.
But he drew a clear distinction between account holders that could be punished for making a genuine mistake and fraudsters that use dud cheques to rip people off.
“For fraud, yes, of course, but sometimes people get in trouble not to their own fault," he told Dubai Eye.
"You see SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) get into trouble because someone hasn’t paid them. I think we as a society have to be more balanced on this issue."