Saturday, May 16, 2009

Law & Order : MacAskill ‘declares war’ on fine dodgers unpaid £10 million

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has apparently declared war on thousands of fine dodgers who have yet to pay nearly £10 million in fines much needed to fill the Government’s coffers. (or expenses accounts – Ed)

The Scotsman reports :

Fine dodgers owe £10m but the blitz to collect starts now

Published Date: 16 May 2009
By Michael Howie

JUSTICE secretary Kenny MacAskill yesterday declared war on fine defaulters who are escaping penalties worth a total of nearly £10 million.

He said fine dodgers were "running out of chances" as a campaign to boost fine collection, including a summer blitz by sheriffs' officers, was announced.

Court officials will also attempt to overcome the red tape that is hampering efforts to take benefits away from persistent defaulters.

The Scottish Court Service (SCS) is to be granted access to a database of every benefits recipient in Scotland to establish which fine defaulters are receiving state hand-outs.

And online tracing services will be used for the first time to track down fine dodgers who change address without telling the court.

Of nearly £100m worth of fines imposed in sheriff courts in the past four years, £75.8m has been paid in full.

Some £5.8m is due in future instalments, with £10m worth of fines discharged and arrears of £7.2m.

Arrears for Justice of the Peace fines, fiscal fines and other fixed penalties total about £2m.

Mr MacAskill, who yesterday visited the service's Glasgow fine enforcement team, said: "Non-payment is unacceptable and the SCS is right to target those who have ignored warnings to date.

"Fine dodgers should be clear that they're running out of chances and now face a range of sanctions to ensure they pay their debt to society."

Fine enforcement officers were brought in just over a year ago to collect fines in a bid to reduce the burden on police and courts.

The officers can help and advise those who are genuinely struggling to make payments, but when people deliberately refuse to pay they have powers to dock wages, freeze bank accounts or request that a court orders deductions from benefits. They can also seize vehicles that may, by the order of court, be sold, or send the case to court if none of these options works.

Mr MacAskill said such officers were a "key part of the summary justice reforms that are freeing up more police to keep our streets safe and enabling the courts to focus proceedings on serious criminal cases".

And he added: "As the new measures take effect, I expect to see payment rates improve still further over the next year."

Eric McQueen, director of field services at the SCS, said that "overall, fine collection rates are higher than ever".

But he added: "We can continue to improve collection rates and the new tracing facilities we are introducing will identify addresses, employment and benefits details, making fines easier to collect.

"Our message is clear: fines must be paid."

No comments: