I first commented on the scandal of unpaid fines 22/02/2010. I last commented three years later on 25/02/2013 with a few more posts in between. Not so long ago I sat in the â€œmeans courtâ€ for the first time in about a year and only then did I fully realise the scale of the problem. It is down purely and simply to the gross mismanagement of the whole fines` system; from the imposition by a court to the hearing at which a defaulter is brought to the means court to explain why a fine or part thereof remains unpaid.
All the parts of the system are in disharmony eg the victim surcharge cannot be recorded within part of the system as a separate entity and is lumped in with the fine. Another part of the system cannot separately record costs and these too are somehow added on to other outstanding figures or so I have been informed. Fines from different courts cannot always be associated with the same offender. Payments of fines do not always reach the required account. Offenders can therefore have different accounts simultaneously. Payments deducted from earnings or welfare benefits at source can stop for various reasons without the knowledge of the offender. Although magistrates` courts have powers to remit (alter, reduce) outstanding fines if there is a change in the offenders` circumstances or lodge(eliminate) fines owing from those imprisoned they have no powers to alter decisions originally made at the Crown Court without express authorisation from that court.
Considering the above and the reluctance of the powers that be to install a meaningful deterrent within the fines system or to signal a total overhaul of the data collection system that will allow control of the process and real knowledge in real time it is unsurprising that the system is in such a chaotic state. Instead of worshipping at the alter of payment by results to reduce re-offending where the â€œresultsâ€ are wide open to â€œinterpretationâ€ the Ministry should apply PBR where results will be as clear as a penalty shootout in the Champions League. If Â£Xmillion is spent to create a system which recovers Â£Ymillion in fines etc and Y>X it wouldn`t take an Einstein to determine if savings have been made and at what cost/Â£.
I suppose it`s alright for a simple blogger to make suggestions. After all doesn`t any government employ the brightest people to sort out problems?