New fine enforcement plans

PEYE 150113KB3  0011 Justice Minister David Ford has published proposals on improving fine collection and enforcement. A consultation on the topic will run until 6 June and the main thrust is to replace police-led enforcement with a ‘collection and enforcement service’ with powers under court authority.

Around 30 per cent of prison places in Northern Ireland are taken up by fine defaulters but the Department of Justice wants to deal with the problem without resorting to prison. The sentences are typically very short (three to four days).

“So far we have focused on supportive solutions, helping people who might have difficulty paying fines,” Ford commented. “I now intend to widen that strategy and to take views on how to balance that preventative approach with additional options to deter people who might actively refuse to pay.”

This would include accessing bank accounts in order to clear fines, seizing motor vehicles belonging to defaulters and looking at other community-based options.

The Minister added: “I feel that it is important to provide both support and deterrence and to allow the collection and enforcement service to adapt and streamline its response according to the individuals before it.”

He added that the resulting legislation will “create a balanced approach to the collection and enforcement of fines and will be designed to ensure that if a fine is imposed, it must be paid.”

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