Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Millions Are Owed to Courts; Unpaid Fines, Costs and Compensation

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Millions Are Owed to Courts; Unpaid Fines, Costs and Compensation

Article excerpt

Byline: Adam Jupp

UNPAID court fines stand at pounds 20m across the North East, it has been revealed.

The amounts uncollected include penalties imposed by judges and magistrates, compensation due to victims and prosecution costs.

The figures emerged as one persistent pest had fines of pounds 800 wiped off after telling a court she was never going to be able to pay.

Emma Smith, 25, of Byker, Newcastle, had her slate wiped clean despite being convicted of yet another offence.

Last night, there were calls for an overhaul of the system after we exposed the scale of the problem. Former Newcastle City Council leader Lord Beecham said: "There is no doubt the fines collection system is a significant issue.

"In some cases, people can end up being sent to prison for non-payment of fines, which of course is a waste of time and money itself."

Lord Beecham, a former solicitor, added: "There are some who have serious social problems that should be addressed in another way, rather than punishing them with a financial penalty, while something also needs to be done about those who deliberately fail to pay.

"Perhaps we should be looking at other forms of repaying the community in cases where it is appropriate.

"It may be that the whole collections system needs completely overhauling."

The figures are from the Justice Ministry and show fines and compensation orders outstanding in the North East.

Latest figures for the Northumbria area, which includes courts in Newcastle, Gateshead, Bedlington, Hexham, North and South Tyneside, show more than pounds 14.7m remains unpaid.

That has gone up from pounds 13.8m last year. And in Durham, the figure is more than pounds 3.5m, rising from pounds 3.3m.

The amounts also include victim surcharges and unpaid fixed penalty notices and on-the-spot fines for disorder, which are transferred to the courts for enforcement. …

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