18 July, 2012
4, 500 warning letters issued to offenders for non-payment of fines
Thousands of warning letters have been issued to offenders who are failing to pay fines handed out by the procurator fiscal.
Figures also show that Fine Enforcement Officers – who are responsible for recovering the fines – have been forced to take 1, 300 actions against offenders who are not paying up.
The news comes on the back of an investigation conducted by the Greenock Telegraph which found that hundreds of offenders avoided receiving criminal convictions for serious crimes including assault, drug possession and fraud.
Under the system the procurator fiscal’s office can offer a fine of between £50 and £300 or let an offender pay up to £5,000 in compensation without the case ever reaching court.
A combined offer, which contains both a fine and compensation, can also be made.
Greenock and Inverclyde MSP Duncan McNeil said the figures – obtained under a freedom of information request to the Scottish Court Service - showed that offenders didn’t believe there would be any serious repercussions for not paying up. He also said they raise doubts about the ability of the fiscal fine system to act as a deterrent and prevent further crime.
A warning letter is the first route taken by Fine Enforcement Officers to recover unpaid fines.
In 2009/10 two and half thousand warning letters were issued while nine hundred were sent out for 2010/11 and over a thousand were issued in 2011/12.
If an offender continues to ignore a fine, Enforcement Officers can take a range of actions which include benefit deductions, freezing bank accounts and arresting wages.
In the financial years 2009/10 and 2010/11 there were 1,250 benefit deduction orders and 39 earning arrestment orders.
There were also six supervise attendance orders granted by the court.
Local MSP Duncan McNeil said;
“The fact that four and a half thousand warning letters have been issued for non-payment of fines and hundreds of enforcement actions have been taken by sheriff officers shows that offenders don’t believe there will be any serious repercussions for not paying up”
“The statistics raise doubts about the ability of the fiscal fine system to act as a deterrent and prevent further crime.”
“The message has to be clear to discourage offenders, if you commit a crime there will be no avoiding the consequences of your actions”.
“The statistics also raise legitimate questions about the time, resource and cost that is associated with tracking down offenders who are avoiding paying their fines and this is something that I will be looking into and I believe we need a proper inquiry from the Scottish Government to establish how effective the fiscal fine system is in keeping our communities safe”