Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Questions (167)

Seán Fleming

Question:

167. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number and amount of fines that were outstanding to the Court Service at the beginning of each of the years 2014 to 2018; the number and value of fines issued by the courts in the course of each of these years; the number and amount of fines collected by the Courts Service in the same period; the outstanding number and value of fines at the end of each of these years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14414/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

My Department is compiling the information in relation to this matter from the Courts Service and I will contact the Deputy directly as soon as I have the information to hand.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A
I refer to Parliamentary Question No. 167 for answer on 27 March 2019 in which the Deputy requested the number and amount of fines that were outstanding to the Courts Service at the beginning of each of the years 2014 to 2018, the number and value of fines issued in the course of each of these years, the number and amount of fines collected by the Courts Service in the same period, the outstanding number and value of fines at the end of each of these years and if I will make a statement on the matter.
As the Deputy will recall, the information he requested could not be obtained in the time available and I undertook to contact him as soon as the information was to hand.
As the Deputy is aware, under the provisions of the Courts Service Act 1998, management of the courts is the responsibility of the Courts Service, which is independent in exercising its functions, which include the provision of information on the courts system.
However, in order to be of assistance, I have had enquiries made and the Courts Service has provided the attached report setting out the available information.
The level of fines uncollected is directly related to the time lapse since the fine was imposed i.e. if a fine was imposed in 2013 there has been up to 6 years in which to collect the fine whereas if a fine was imposed in 2018 there has only been a maximum of 12 months to collect the fine. Efforts to realise uncollected fines continue over a number of years.
Fines imposed in 2013, 2014 & 2015
For fines imposed prior to the commencement of the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014 in January 2016, a term of imprisonment was set as a sanction for a fine default. When a fined person is lodged in prison on foot of a fines warrant, details of the warrant are recorded on the prison computer system. On a monthly basis the Prison Service provides the Courts Service with a spreadsheet detailing all fines warrants lodged in prisons. This data is then uploaded on to the Criminal Case Tracking System.
Fines imposed from 11 th January 2016
The Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014 was commenced on 11th January 2016.
This Act introduced a number of default options that were previously unavailable prior to the commencement of the Act. The default penalty options available to the Judge are:
- Attachment of Earnings – this is only possible if the person is employed. Attachment of Social Welfare benefits is specifically prohibited;
- Recovery Order – for fines in excess of €500. These fines would be collected by a receiver who would be entitled to collect fees and expenses in addition to the amount of the fine;
- Community Service – the default penalty if neither of the two previous options is possible;
- Imprisonment – the final default option if none of the previous three options can be imposed.
Because these options were not available prior to the commencement of the Act, i.e. prior to January 2016, comparisons between the respective 3 year periods are inadvisable and may be misleading.
I am, however, aware that difficulties have been experienced in the implementation of the Act, which was introduced as a reforming and progressive measure and was widely supported in the Oireachtas. I have now authorised a review of the Act, its enforcement and related matters and to this end I am putting in place a high level working group.
The purpose of this group is to bring the expertise of all of the relevant stakeholders together so as to determine the most effective way of ensuring that the policy of minimal committals is preserved to the extent possible, while maximising the effectiveness of the alternative sanctions available to the courts in cases of default and to ensure that the integrity of the criminal justice process at this level is maintained and enhanced.
I hope this information is of assistance.

-

-

2013

-

2014

-

2015

-

2016

-

2017

-

2018

Fine Status

No of Fines

Value of Fines

No of Fines

Value of Fines

No of Fines

Value of Fines

No of Fines

Value of Fines

No of Fines

Value of Fines

No of Fines

Value of Fines

Due

7,406

€2,365,845.67

8,348

€2,911,497.55

12,992

€4,973,845.32

22,924

€8,915,713.29

39,614

€13,601,200.19

44,188

€14,425,740.13

Paid

39,509

€10,788,840.37

41,966

€11,225,071.07

38,573

€10,290,401.22

30,695

€8,225,903.95

26,352

€7,607,003.87

20,171

€5,532,392.78

Total

69,462

€21,086,292.02

73,803

€22,579,042.35

70,699

€22,481,510.74

67,500

€21,758,901.17

68,636

€22,240,098.17

68,410

€21,701,907.92

NB: The discrepancy between the figures for fines due plus fines paid and the overall total in each year is due to a number of fines imposed that are uncollectable, refundable, appeal pending, JR pending and part paid. In each of the years, 2013, 2014 and 2015, prior to the commencement of the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014, the high number of committals accounts for the difference between the value of fines paid and the overall value of the fines imposed.
NB: The level of fines uncollected is directly related to the time lapse since the fine was imposed i.e. if a fine was imposed in 2013 there has been up to 6 years in which to collect the fine whereas if a fine was imposed in 2018 there has only been a maximum of 12 months to collect the fine. Efforts to realise uncollected fines continue over a number of years. Consequently the value of fines outstanding in 20162017/2018 is significantly higher than for 2013/2014/2015.