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Law reform will allow fines to be paid in instalments

A new scheme approved by ministers could see unpaid fines deducted from a person’s wages if they remain unpaid.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE GOVERNMENT has approved a radical overhaul of the laws concerning the collection of legal fines – which will see people given up to a year to pay any fines in instalments.

The new rules, announced by justice minister Alan Shatter this afternoon, will give people 12 months to pay fines in instalments, with an added premium of 10 per cent – the first time that such an option has been offered.

However, the rules will also allow for the possibility that anyone who does not pay a fine can be brought back to court, which will be able to order that the fine be deducted from the person’s earnings.

The rules would also see courts able to impose a recovery order – where a receiver will be appointed over a person’s assets to ensure the fine is repaid in full – or order the person to carry out community service.

Someone who still fails to comply with an order would then face the prospect of 12 months in prison, an additional penalty of €2,500, or both.

The measures are contained in a Fines (Amendment) Bill 2012, which will amend the rules surrounding the court enforcement of fines to allow for the proposed recovery procedures.

Justice minister Alan Shatter said the move to allow fines be paid by instalments, and for other ways to ensure that fines can be collected, amounted to “important reforms of the fine collection system”.

He added that the moves would help to cut down on the numbers sent to jail for the non-payment of fines.

“We have already legislated to require judges to take a person’s financial circumstances into account when setting a fine.  When this Bill is enacted, it will be easier for people to pay a fine”, he said.

“Where they fail to do so, there will be sufficient alternatives available to the courts to all but eliminate the need to commit anyone to prison for the non-payment of fines.”

Fines worth €17.3 million were collected in 2011, amounting to about two-thirds of the total amount due.

Over 7,500 people were jailed for non-payment of fines, though the Department of Justice says those jailed for fines only constitute a small part of the prison population at any one time.

Explainer: What does liquidation, examinership and receivership mean?

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Gavan Reilly

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