Dubai minor crimes court records pandemic slump, with bounced cheques and illegal work most common

Number of cases handled by the court dropped from 6,191 in 2019 to 2,621 last year

The city's minor crimes court mostly handled bounced cheques, visa and residency issues and offences relating to alcohol. Getty Images
The city's minor crimes court mostly handled bounced cheques, visa and residency issues and offences relating to alcohol. Getty Images

Dubai’s one-day court for petty crimes heard fewer cases in 2020 as more people stayed home during the peak of the pandemic.

The emirate’s Attorney General Essam Issa Al Humaidan said the decline in cases was attributed to reduced movement last year.

“As a direct result of Covid-19 closures and their repercussions, the number of cases heard by the court dropped from 6,191 in 2019, to 2,621 involving 10,965 defendants in 2020,” he said.

The court, which started operating in 2017 after a successful trial in 2015, frees up other courtrooms for more serious matters.

It primarily covers the densely populated Deira and Bur Dubai districts, plus residency offences, and issues verdicts within 24 hours.

Last year, the court handled 1,165 cases of bounced cheques, 653 of illegal stays in the country and 330 against people who worked while on a visit visa.

The court also looked into 305 cases of consuming alcohol and 177 of drink-driving.

The drop in numbers was seen in March 2020 when restrictions were placed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The court stopped examining cases during April and May.

Only 43 cases were brought to the court when it resumed work in June but the number increased to 140 cases by December.

In 2015 and 2016, the court heard 5,384 cases that involved 14 types of minor offences, such as consuming alcohol, issuing bad cheques, visa overstays, drinking and driving, damaging property and driving without a licence.

The number increased to 25,047 cases in 2017.

In 2018, the list of charges that could be prosecuted in the one-day court was expanded to include all misdemeanour cases that do not require examinations, reports or listening to testimonies of witnesses.

These include begging, absconding from sponsors and possessing alcohol without a licence, among others.

“We always seek to develop and facilitate work in line with latest and best international judicial practices, so all the offences added to the list of charges that can be heard by the one-day court were thoroughly studied and filtered,” Mr Al Humaidan said.

“Dubai Prosecution does not hesitate to update procedures to speed up the process of hearing cases, but within applicable legal and administrative frameworks.”

The country's first one-day courts handling civil and commercial cases that involve claims of up to Dh20,000 were introduced by Ras Al Khaimah courts in 2017, a few weeks before one was set up in Dubai.

The move was later adopted by all emirates in the country.

Deira's pandemic lockdown in pictures

Updated: May 26, 2021 04:10 PM

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