21/07/2011

Court Penalties Are 'Not Fine', Says Ford

The NI Justice Minister David Ford has today published for consultation proposals to tackle the problem of fine default.

Motorists who refuse to pay their court fines could have their vehicles seized, clamped or have their licence endorsed under proposals put out to the public.

Deductions could also be taken from salaries or benefits from those who refuse to pay their fines in full.

The Alliance Party Leader and Justice Minister David Ford said: "Over the past number of years there have been an increasing number of people ending up in prison simply for the non-payment of a fine.

"Around 1,700 people - nearly one third all prison receptions - have been going into prison each year for very short periods of time for not paying their fines.

"The Justice System needs to do better by helping people avoid default and, where that possibility arises, to provide a range of payment options so that they do not end up in prison," he said.
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The consultation paper looks at four main areas, and is targeting the fine to help courts set fines in the correct cases and in a fully informed way and is encouraging payment to help those fined use opportunities for planned payment and is dealing with default to explore ways of strengthening the fine and enforcement.

It will also seek to deliver the service by exploring opportunities to move from a police-led enforcement system to a civilianised model.

David Ford said: "These proposals are not about targeting those who cannot pay their fines. We want to put in place systems to support them meet their obligations.

"But we must look at new ways of tackling those who simply refuse to pay their fines and opt for a short stay in custody instead.

"The cost to the justice system, both in financial and administrative terms, demands that we must arrive at a better way of dealing with this problem," he explained.

"This consultation looks a how we can do this and create a fine setting system that is effective, efficient and fair," he concluded, noting that the consultation will run until Friday, 14 October.

(BMcC/GK)

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