Saturday, April 01, 2006

Getting The Cash In

I made my first-ever Collection Order for a fine this week.

A few years back the court's performance in collecting the fines it had imposed was frankly pathetic. Any private-sector Financial Director who only got in about half of the money due to him would get his P45 in short order. We are starting to get a grip now, and our rate is over 80%, which is not as bad as it looks, since we often write off sums because they were too high in the first place (usually where a poor person does not turn up to court, so is fined on an average-income basis) or because the fine has been overtaken by events, usually a prison sentence.

We now have a full-time Fines Officer who has powers delegated from the court. Attachment of Earnings and Deduction from Benefit are now standard procedures, and in addition he can send in the bailiffs, or order a car to be clamped. Once that happens the magistrates have the power to order its sale (not that many of the bangers we deal with are worth more than the price of a cup of tea and a sandwich). The defaulter can also be registered with the usual credit reference agencies, which will impair his ability to pile up goods using his credit card while the court goes unpaid. One day soon we should also be able to order unpaid work in lieu of some fines.

If all else fails we can still imprison in default, but that is purely pour encourager les autres, as money is spent on jail costs and the fine is cancelled. Fingers crossed.

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