19/03/2010

Jail Sentences For Fines May Be Scrapped

Alternatives to costly prison sentences for unpaid fines are being highlighted with news of a report on enforcement.

The Northern Ireland Office Minister Paul Goggins has welcomed today's report on Fine Enforcement by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate.

He said this followed a consultation on measures to address fine default in Northern Ireland, identifying ways of making sure that fines are paid and ending the automatic imprisonment of fine defaulters.

This he said was at an annual cost of around £1million and noted: "I welcome this report by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate which acknowledges the work already underway and the challenges that remain in tackling fine default.
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"Prison should be reserved for the most serious offenders, so creating a more efficient, effective and affordable system is a priority.

"The immediate focus is on early impact initiatives that can be delivered this year including better ways of putting information before the courts to determine whether a fine is the appropriate penalty." he said.

"Plans are in hand for the creation of a fine default register to assist Courts in considering fines and for the development of a community service-based Supervised Activity Order as an alternative to prison for default.

"A project group to scope a civilian based fines collection system will also be established," but he added, "as we approach devolution full implementation and all final decisions will fall to the local justice minister."

(BMcC/GK)

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