€10m in court fines go unpaid each year
Published 08/02/2010 | 05:00
About €10m in fines imposed by the courts are going uncollected every year, with many criminals preferring to spend time in prison than pay.
A spokesperson for the court service admitted that up to 30pc of fines imposed were never recovered, with the numbers being jailed for failing to pay almost doubling.
The Court Service of Ireland puts a value on the fines issued at about €40m each year. This means that about €10m in fines are going uncollected annually.
Fine Gael justice spokesperson Charlie Flanagan said the system needed to be changed.
"Ultimately, what is happening is thousands of people are going to jail for non-payment of fines," he said.
A spokesperson for the court service said that about half of all fines were collected on time.
"The average fine is approximately €300, with 460 fines being issued per day," he said.
"Of these fines, approximately 50pc are paid within the time limit. This percentage is steadily increasing due to the proactive management of the fines collection process," he added.
A new case management and accounting system has been rolled out, automating much of the process and centralising accounting practices. Another initiative has allowed online payment of fines since 2008.
Despite these moves, there has been a large increase in the number of people committed to prison for the non-payment of fines. Between 2007 and 2008, the number of people imprisoned for not paying a court-ordered fine increased by 88pc.