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How will the new fine payment law coming into force today affect you?

Jail time for fine defaulters will be considered only as a last resort under the legislation.

Image: Shutterstock/Kichigin

LEGISLATION COMING INTO effect today aims to reduce the number of people imprisoned for not paying fines.

Some 8,140 people were jailed for non-payment in 2014 – the last year for which figures are available – with the majority spending less than a day in prison.

The Fines Act 2014 introduces a number of new measures around the payment and recovery of fines, but what does it mean for you?

Will I still have to pay fines in one go?

No. All fines over €100 can now be paid by installments, which means you’ll only be brought to court if you default on repayments. Fines will also be set at a level that considers your financial circumstances.

Who’ll be responsible for fine collection? 

An Post has been confirmed as the service provider for collection, allowing you to pay instalments in post offices across the country.

The Courts Service said that An Post’s subsidiary PrintPost will now print fine notices and reminders.

What happens if I still don’t pay up? 

In situations where a fine remains unpaid, a judge can make an attachment order to deduct the outstanding debt from income other than social welfare.

If an attachment order isn’t appropriate, and the fine exceeds €500, a court can order that property be seized and sold to recover the sum. A recovery order will allow a receiver to enter any premises belonging to the fined person and take possession of any of their property, with “reasonable force” if necessary.

In the event that neither order cause the fine to be paid in full, a community service order can be imposed to require the person to perform unpaid work for between 40 and 100 hours.

Can I still be jailed for failing to pay a fine?

The legislation considers imprisonment to be a last resort, where an attachment or recovery order isn’t suitable, or where a person fails to comply with a community service order.

Jail time is decided by the amount of the unpaid fine.

What has reaction to the new law been?

The Irish Penal Reform Trust welcomed the news, saying that it particularly welcomes the fact that imprisonment will be a sanction of ‘last resort’ for fines default.

IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone said:

This is a victory for common sense: imprisoning people for failure to pay court ordered fines is not only socially damaging, it creates an illogical and additional burden on an already strained prison system. Ending the practice of imprisonment for failure to pay fines will reduce unnecessary and damaging committals to prison, as well as saving the taxpayer money.

The IPRT also noted that an installment option does not apply to fines under €100, and pointed out that “even €100 may be a significant money for families in the current economic climate”, so it believes this limit should be removed.

Read: Major IT upgrade means people who don’t pay fines will have it taken from their wages

Read: Driver fined €25,000 in M50 toll-dodging crackdown

About the author:

Catherine Healy

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