More than 13,000 cases related to bounced cheques were settled out of court last year, Dubai's Attorney General said.
Dubai issued a criminal order – known as the Penal Order – in 2017, which authorised the Public Prosecution to issue verdicts on misdemeanours and minor offences, instead of referring them to the courts.
The system was aimed at speeding up judicial procedures and improving the efficiency of the courts' system.
Prosecutors said 16,289 cases were settled out of court last year under the Penal Order, which involved Dh48.1 million ($13.1m) in fines.
Bounced cheques accounted for 83 per cent of cases settled without having to go to court, Dubai’s Attorney General Essam Issa Al Humaidan said.
“As many as 13,517 cases settled via the Penal Order were of bounced cheques, 67 per cent of which were for cheques worth less than Dh50,000,” he said.
Those responsible for bounced cheques up to Dh50,000 are fined Dh2,000, while those who bounce cheques of between Dh50,000 and Dh100,000 pay a Dh5,000 fine, with a Dh10,000 fine for bounced cheques between Dh100,000 and Dh200,000.
“The Penal Order has achieved great results. It has saved time and effort and allowed courts to focus more on serious offences,” said Mr Al Humaidan.
In October last year, the UAE Cabinet updated the country's Federal Law on Commercial Transactions with several new provisions that aim to discourage criminal lawsuits against people and businesses for bouncing cheques.
The new amendments, which will come into effect in 2022, redefine crimes involving bounced cheques and the issuance of cheques without value.
Covid-19 contributes to drop in cases
The 2020 figures revealed a 45 per cent drop in the number of cases handled via the Penal Order, compared to 2019 when 29,629 cases were dealt with under the order, involving Dh92.9m in fines.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a drop in the number of cases due to movement restrictions and suspension of business and social activities,” said Mr Al Humaidan.
“January last year saw 2,040 minor offences handled via the Penal Order and only five in April [last year],” he said.
“An average of 1,357 cases were handled during the other months of last year.”
Cases against people who failed to pay for services, like a taxi fare or not paying rent, made up three per cent of the overall number of last year’s minor offences, with only 490 cases.
“The year before there were 971 cases of people who refused to pay fees,” said Al Humaidan.