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Another fine mess?

Paul Tain looks at the provisions for fine collection and enforcement in the Courts Bill

18 April 2003

Clauses 31 to 35 and Sched 2 of the Courts Bill (the Bill), dealing with the collection of fines, are unlikely to spark national debate because fine collection is a mundane part of the system. Even for interested parties, the fact the proposals have to be piloted means they are one stage further from implementation and can, perhaps, be ignored. In reality fines and fine collection are the backbone of the criminal justice system. They are of uneven application and collection is variable. Their power as a device for the reduction or prevention of crime needs to be developed and any proposals should be scrutinised. When the changes have real significance for defendants, practitioners must take them on board to assist their clients. Present problems At present fines are imposed to reflect the seriousness of the offence and the defendant’s ability to repay them within a reasonable time. The rate of repayment is set judicially by the court imposing the sentence and any...

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