Prisons: New bid to keep places for serious criminals
A BIGGER effort will be made to "reserve" prison places for serious criminals.
In the light of the recent increase in the prison population, the Government said it was determined to ensure imprisonment is used only as a last resort.
Last year 4,800 people were sent to jail for non-payment of fines and a number of measures have been introduced to tackle this problem.
With effect from January, the courts will have to take into account the capacity of an offender to pay a fine before deciding on the amount.
Later in the year changes will be made to allow fines to be paid by instalment and where a person wilfully refuses to pay up, the first option will be seizure of their goods.
If that proves unsuccessful, the courts will consider community service.
The plan points out that a large number of those sent to jail are serving sentences of six months or less and legislation is being drafted to impose a legal obligation on judges to consider imposing community service in cases, where they might, otherwise, hand down a sentence of six months, or less.
Measures have already been implemented to stop people being jailed for non-payment of civil debt.