time with the introduction of a national pilot project designed to
make them pay up front and on time. The pilot project, to be launched
early next year, follows the new Courts Act which contains sweeping
Courts minister, Chris Leslie, said the six month pilot project gets
tough on defaulters by broadening the use of Attachment to Earnings
Orders and Deductions from Benefits Orders.
'It brings to the front end of the fines collection system an
enforcement tool which, until now, has been at the end of the
enforcement process,' he said.
'Under the pilot project, an existing fine defaulter who is fined
will automatically get an Attachment to Earnings or Deductions from
'This means that people with a history of not paying have fewer
opportunities to dodge their obligations. Instead, amounts are
instantly and automatically deducted from either their wages or
'Not only will the automatic payment of fines boost general revenue
and, therefore, potentially benefit everyone but, significantly, it
sends the right message to the community. People need to feel safe in
the knowledge that our justice system works well and is fair to all
who come into contact with it.'
In addition, the project will implement a new offence for those who
fail to provide relevant details to the court about their financial
situation, known as Means Information. This must be supplied when
people are summoned and can be submitted in writing or orally. The
new offence has a maximum penalty of a£500 fine.
Chairman of the Association of Justices' Chief Executives, John Grant
Jones, welcomes the increased enforcement powers given to the
criminal justice areas by the Courts Act.
'These provisions will act as important new weapons in the armoury to
deal with defendants who default in paying th eir fines. We are
pleased the government has recognised that courts should be given
wider powers in this area.
'We anticipate considerable staff and court time will be saved by
having these new powers. The savings achieved will allow enforcement
staff to chase up other defaulters much earlier and use the extensive
new enforcement penalties available under the Act.
'In addition, having the correct financial information about a
defendant before sentence will assist magistrates in fixing a fine
that properly reflects both the gravity of the offence and the
offender's ability to pay.
'The AJCE fully supports the government in its determination that
every fine must be paid in full and defaulters will be chased until
this has been done.'
Six local pilots will also be run, each focussing on different
aspects of the fine collection scheme. The local pilots will operate
in the following areas:-
1. Cambridgeshire - Increase the fine by 25% if it is not paid in
full and on time
2. Cumbria - Increase the fine by 50% if it is not paid in full and
3. Devon and Cornwall - Vehicle clamping
4. South Yorkshire - Fine registration (similar to a blacklist)
5. Cheshire - Piloting the entire scheme + 25% increase
6. Gloucestershire - Piloting the entire scheme + 50% increase
The pilot projects seek to establish the best way to make the fines
enforcement provisions in the Courts Act work. Essentially, the new
Act provides incentives and disincentives for people who can afford
to pay but choose not to and alternatives for those who genuinely
If defaulters refuse to pay even though they can afford to, they may
end up paying an increased fine, having their vehicle clamped or
going on a defaulters' list which could ultimately affect their
Where an offender genuinely can't afford to pay, the Act gives the
courts the power to discharge a fine through unpaid work.
Mr Leslie said the tougher stand on fines enforcement is what the
community wants and expects.
'No-one should be able to evade the sentence of the courts when they
have the means to pay a fine. Equally, if someone genuinely can't
afford to pay their fine they can repay their debt to society in
another way - no longer will people be able to escape punishment
'Justice needs to be seen to be done and the Courts Act and series of
pilot projects set out to achieve that.'
1. Attachment to Earnings Order is money deducted from the
individual's salary, similar to a direct debit.
2. Deductions from Benefits Order is money deducted from the
individual's benefits. However, this only relates to the Job Seekers
Allowance and Income Support and not other benefits such as
3. The national pilot project will operate in all 265 local justice
areas across England and Wales. There are approx. 6 LJAs in each of
the 42 criminal justice areas.
4. The pilot project will be evaluated after six months but will
continue to operate whilst being assessed until a national rollout of
the final scheme.
5. Fines include court imposed fines and 'on the spot' fines, also
known as a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) that are registered as fines.
6. London based, PA Consulting Group, is working with DCA officials
on the pilot projects. PA is a global strategy, management, systems
and technology consulting firm.