To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how much his Department has written off in unpaid fines in each year since 2010-11.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) takes the issue of fine enforcement very seriously and is working to ensure that clamping down on fine defaulters is a continued priority nationwide. HMCTS actively pursues all outstanding fines until certain they cannot be collected. Last year we collected £284.5 million, a record high—£5.19 million or 2% higher than the previous year, and £2.2 million or 1% more than the previous record high in 2010-11. The outstanding balance of financial penalties reduced by £17.8 million (3%) during the 2012-13 financial year.
The amounts of financial impositions administratively cancelled and legally cancelled in each year since 2010-11 are set out in the following table:
|Amount legally cancelled (£)||Amount administratively cancelled (£)|
It is not possible to identify the amounts written off for just the fine element. The amounts above therefore include all elements of financial penalties (excluding confiscation orders): fines, costs, compensation and victim surcharge. The amounts cancelled in a particular year can relate to impositions from that year or any previous year.
Financial penalties are only administratively cancelled after all attempts to collect the amount outstanding have been made, and in accordance with strict cancellation criteria. These penalties can be written back on to the system if more information is found—for instance, a new address for the offender.
Legal cancellations can be applied after the case has been reconsidered by a judge or magistrate. Typically, legal cancellations are used where a case has been reopened and the defendant has been found not guilty, following the presentation of additional information. Legal cancellations can be full or partial remittances of financial penalties.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has carried out a fundamental review of financial penalty accounts, actively targeting accounts to achieve compliance at the earliest point, as well as tackling old accounts, and administratively cancelling them where there is no realistic chance of collection because they do not have enough information to trace the debtors. This explains the increase in the value of administrative cancellations seen in the figures.
This enabled HMCTS to focus resources on increasing collections on accounts which can be enforced, resulting in the record high level of collection in 2012-13.