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Unpaid Fines

Justice written question – answered on 26th July 2010.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how much is owed to the Exchequer in outstanding fines imposed by courts; and what steps the Government plans to take to recuperate all such outstanding fines.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The amount outstanding for financial penalties at the end of June 2010 was £597,926,217.

The value of outstanding balance includes the amount owed for fines imposed in the magistrates and crown courts plus compensation, victims surcharge, costs and the value of unpaid fixed penalty notices that are transferred to HMCS for enforcement as a fine. The outstanding balance has risen through the application of a strict policy that only allows fines to be written off in certain circumstances. The outstanding balance includes fines imposed a number of years ago during the period when fines could not be cancelled (2000-06) and fines which are being paid by instalments. Some of the balance outstanding could be as much as 10 years old. There was a large increase in the amount outstanding in April 2010 due to one fine for £8.3 million being imposed against a company, of which only £2 million has been paid so far and they have been ordered to pay the remainder in instalments starting from December 2010.

Her Majesty's Courts Service has in place a strategy to increase the success of compliance with court orders particularly with regard to financial penalties-the Criminal Compliance and Enforcement Services Blueprint. This was launched in July 2008 and is being implemented across HMCS. The blueprint sets out HMCS's strategic objective for enforcement which is for a cheaper, faster and more proportionate system that primarily focuses on 'first time' compliance while continuing to apply the principles of rigorous enforcement to the hard core of defaulters. The blueprint implementation ensures greater use of the sanctions available under the Courts Act 2003 and extended methods of payment

Performance in relation to the collection of financial penalties is being closely monitored across all areas of HMCS and any area where performance is below target is being challenged by a central team who will assist the area in identifying areas for improvement and set targets for increased collection.

In the 2009-10 financial year HMCS collected £259,241,082 which was £12.5 million (5%) more cash against financial penalties than in the 2008-09 year.

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