§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie)
Too many fines are not paid. In the year 2002–03, an unacceptable 45 per cent. of fines were not paid. In some areas the level of default was as high as 60 per cent. The authority of the courts must be enforced. We are announcing today a new approach to the collection of fines.
First, fines will no longer be written off. They will be chased until they are paid, no longer being written off, as they often are, after 12 months.
Secondly, we will make it easier to deduct the fine directly from the offender's pay or benefits.
Thirdly, if the offender really cannot pay, we will allow the fine to be paid off by unpaid work in the community.
Fourthly, where courts have been ineffective in the collection of fines, we will allow the private sector to be brought into the collection of fines.
Fifthly, we will introduce a new offence of failing to provide details of income and expenditure to allow deduction orders to be made.
Sixthly, we will consider allowing deductions for earlier payment, but we will increase the fines for late payment.41WS
Seventhly, we will work with the courts to ensure that there are incentives for those individual fine officers who collect fines effectively.
This seven-point plan will be driven personally by the Ministers in DCA. They will intervene personally with any Magistrates' Courts Committees that continue to perform badly.
Fine enforcement is a priority. The DCA's job is now, actively, to ensure the courts are effective in fighting crime.42WS
A report on the annual performance data was placed in the Libraries of both Houses today entitled "Fine Enforcement Performance in 2002–03". The report shows that performance overall was poor, with the 42 independent Magistrates' Courts Committees (MCCs) failing to deliver the overall national target of a payment rate of 68 per cent.
The Government commissioned an independent review "A Review of Magistrates' Courts Enforcement Strategies" which we are also placing in the Libraries of both Houses today.