Friday, March 23, 2012

Numbers Game

The Commons Public Accounts Committee is less than impressed by the MoJ's financial management in its latest report. The papers have seized on the headline figure of uncollected cash but to be fair to the MoJ (not something that comes easily to me) the accelerating trend of making seizure and forfeiture orders has resulted in some huge sums becoming due, with little realistic hope of their ever being collected.

Fines are a touchy subject, but the iron law that you cannot get blood out of a stone is beyond hope of repeal. Sometimes we fine someone who is able and, more importantly, willing to pay his fine there and then. Only last year we took about £7000 from a man in fines and compensation and he paid it on the way out with his credit card. More often the person being fined is on benefit, so the best that we can do is  to make a Deduction from Benefit Order. It's only a fiver a week but it keeps the books straight.


  1. The large proceeds of crime orders are usually accompanied by a period to be served in prison in default. However, considerable time is usually allowed before the individual is found in default.

    However one looks at these figures, the total outstanding in FINES is unnecessarily high. Couple that with MoJ's accounting problems and it is little wonder that the Public Accounts Committee are concerned - as should be hard-pressed taxpayers.

  2. We used to be able to take the cash in court but can no longer do so. Our fines office has closed and payment has to be made to a central MoJ fines office by phone, based on a number which rarely answers. I didn't believe this at first so have tried the number myself. So now I believe it.

  3. If the means form mentions smoking or drinking treat that as immediately available for paying the fine - all of it - and say you are doing so. Similarly if the amount spent on the phone is high. That can be cut back.

  4. gosh- never would have thought of that....

  5. If a fine were offered as an option that could be taken up if the offender could show sufficient means to pay it, with the alternative being a few days or weeks in chokey, then I suspect you'd get more people willing and able to pay.

    (posted as anonymous because I can't work out how to login to the new system).

  6. The number of houses of people "on benefits" that I have been in where various electronic gizmos, often large televisions, are present is massive. A quick trip by the defendant to Cash Converters would work wonders...

    Scotland, albeit not your domain, has the marvellous means enquiry warrant when people fail to pay fines. A quick glance inventory on behalf of the arresting officer to attest to assets, requiring a copy of bank statements from the defendant etc etc should work. Using solely income is a very poor single means of judging the ability to pay a fine.

    But then I'm sure a brief can "advise" on all manner of get out clauses, from sudden "thefts", the TV actually being borrowed from a friend etc etc.


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