30/07/2004

Fine enforces gain wider powers of search and entry

Officials recovering court fines will be able to use reasonable force if necessary to enter property and search an offender for dangerous weapons, such as knives, when executing warrants to enforce fines and community penalties, it was announced today.

The measures are designed to permit more effective recovery and protection for Civilian Enforcement Officers (CEOs) and Approved Enforcement Agents (AEAs). There is no statutory definition of "reasonable force", but in practice, it means force that the average person would consider reasonable in the individual circumstances in order to achieve the execution of a warrant.

Courts Minister, Christopher Leslie, said fines enforcement was a government priority and part of the broader strategy to strengthen the criminal justice system.

The ensuing amendments to the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill are designed to further improve the enforcement of fines.

"We should no longer tolerate those found guilty of criminal offences evading their sentence or escaping justice," he said.

"Consequently, fines will be a more credible sentencing option and thereby reduce the need for more costly forms of punishment such as imprisonment."

A new fines enforcement regime has already seen the collection of fines exceed its 75% national target, reaching 76% in the last quarter of 2003/04.

(gmcg)

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