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NATIONAL FINES PILOT TARGETS PERSISTENT FINE DEFAULTERS

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People with a history of fine defaulting are in for a very difficult ...
People with a history of fine defaulting are in for a very difficult

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

reforms to fines enforcement.

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

Benefits Order.

'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

benefits.

'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

on time

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

can't.

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

credit rating.

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

altogether.

'Justice needs to be seen to be done and the Courts Act and series of

pilot projects set out to achieve that.'

Notes

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

disability.

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.

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