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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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Half of the people imprisoned in Ireland last year were jailed for not paying fines

People are released after very short periods but are left with a prison record.

Image: Shutterstock/DenisNata

LAST YEAR IN Ireland 55% of those imprisoned were jailed for the non-payment of fines.

This was out of a total of approximately 18,000 individuals that were sent to prison last year.

The prison terms imposed were mostly very short, with it estimated that those imprisoned for non-payment of fines generally amounted to around six prison spaces taken up at any given time.

Difficulty arises from the fact that once someone has been imprisoned, they are left with a criminal record, something that can impede their ability to travel and live abroad.

Speaking yesterday, the Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Michael Donnellan, said that the main difficulty for prisons is processing such a large number of individuals.

What is going to happen now? 

Plans are now in place to change the way the system works, with the introduction of the the Payment and Recovery Act 2014.

Under the new legislation a number of alternatives are available, including paying in instalments, recovery orders and attachments to earnings.

Imprisonment will remain as the action of last resort.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show yesterday, Donnellan said that fines still had an important role to play, but that certain things needed to change.

“The introduction of fines as a sanction is very important because it is one of the least invasive sanctions in relation to people who come before the courts,” he said.

“If it can be administered in a modern, progressive way, It has a real place within a modern criminal justice system.

It should benefit people. People coming to prison for the non-payment of a TV licence or the non-payment of a small fine is a huge consequence. And often they don’t realise the damage that that can have on their future life.

Read: A rally calling for Walli Ullah Safi’s immediate release from Cloverhill has been held in Dublin

Also: Dozens of prison drivers ‘forgot’ to bring their licences to work today

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