Written Answers. - Court Fines.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

343 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proportion of cases in which fines imposed by the courts are not paid; and the action it is proposed to take to ensure fines are paid. [28595/00]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

344 Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of cases in the latest year for which statistics are available where fines were imposed by a court following conviction on indictment; and the offences involved. [28596/00]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 343 and 344 together.

I am informed by the Courts Service, which now has direct responsibility for the provision of information for the public on the courts system, that court statistics are not compiled in such a manner as to provide the information sought by the Deputy. However statistics are available for the number of fines imposed by the District Court in the years ending 31 July 1995 to 31 July 1998 together with the number of warrants issued by the District Court for the non-payment of fines and fine receipts in the years ending 31 December 1995 to 31 December 1998. This information is provided in the following table. It should be noted that the number of fines warrants issued by District Court offices only indicates the number of fines which are not paid within the time allowed by the court and is not indicative of the number of fines imposed which remain unpaid at any given time. Statistics for the number of fines imposed by the Circuit Court in the years ending 31 December 1993 to 31 December 1997 also follow for the Deputy's information.
Indictable offences are dealt with by the Circuit Criminal Court, Central Criminal Court and the Special Criminal Court. The District Court can also deal with indictable offences in certain circumstances and in fact the majority of indictable offences are dealt with at District Court level.
Statistics for the number of fines imposed by the Circuit Criminal Court, for the years ending 31 December 1993 to 31 December 1997, follow. More recent information is not readily available. No fines were imposed in the Central Criminal Court in the year ending 31 December 2000. In relation to indictable offences dealt with by the District Court, the latest year for which complete statistics are available is the year ending 31 July 1999 and in that year a total of 3,926 fines were imposed by the District Court for indictable offences. However the statistics available for fines imposed by the District Court do not indicate the value of the fines imposed or the offences for which they were imposed.
It is anticipated that information on the number and value of fines unpaid at any given time together with an age analysis of unpaid fines will be readily available when the proposed computerised criminal case tracking and financial accounting packages are installed in all court offices. It is also envisaged that the new computerised systems will provide for a number of different payment methods, that is, credit card payments, payment on-line etc., which will make it easier for people to pay.
Certain measures have already been taken to assist in the enforcement of fine payment. The Courts (No. 2) Act, 1991, section 1(1), provides that in all cases of summary jurisdiction, where a fine has been imposed by a court and has not been paid within the time allowed by the court, a warrant must issue within six months of the due date of payment. This provision has increased the efficiency of the issue of fines warrants by court offices.
Work on the drafting of an attachment of earnings Bill is currently at a preliminary stage in my Department. It is proposed that the Bill will include provisions relating to the enforcement of fines.
Circuit Court Fines
a)Fines Imposed
Number and Value of fines imposed in the Circuit Court in years ending 31/12/93 to 31/12/97

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

Fines

NumberofFinesImposed

Value ofFinesImposed£

NumberofFinesImposed

Value ofFinesImposed£

NumberofFinesImposed

Value ofFinesImposed£

NumberofFinesImposed

Value ofFinesImposed£

NumberofFinesImposed

Value ofFinesImposed£

Total

80

1,217,878.03

38

516,400.65

57

820,603.48

55

2,008,472.88

61

627,853.60

b)Fines Unpaid
Number and Value of fines unpaid in the Circuit Court as at 31/12/93, 31/12/94, 31/12/95, 31/12/96, 31/12/97

31/12/1993

31/12/1994

31/12/1995

31/12/1996

31/12/1997

Fines

NumberofFinesUnpaid

Value ofFinesUnpaid£

NumberofFinesUnpaid

Value ofFinesUnpaid£

NumberofFinesUnpaid

Value ofFinesUnpaid£

NumberofFinesUnpaid

Value ofFinesUnpaid£

NumberofFinesUnpaid

Value ofFinesUnpaid£

Total

4

7,450

1

100

3

1,025

1

12,000

5

1,200

Fines Imposed and Warrants issued by the District Court

Fine Receipts

Year Ending

Number ofFines Imposed

Year Ending

Estimated Numberof Fines WarrantsIssued

Year Ending

Amount Received

31/07/95

145,153

31/12/95

74,484

31/12/95

7,979,751

31/07/96

141,705

31/12/96

69,190

31/12/96

8,266,698

31/07/97

131,635

31/12/97

70,318

31/12/97

7,781,745

31/07/98

121,647

31/12/98

59,173

31/12/98

8,860,980

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