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Fine defaulters could spend longer in jail, says David Ford

Published 08/09/2015

David Ford said the Justice Bill would improve arrangements for collection and enforcement of financial penalties set by courts
David Ford said the Justice Bill would improve arrangements for collection and enforcement of financial penalties set by courts

People who wilfully default on fines in Northern Ireland could spend longer in prison, the justice minister has warned.

Penalties will be paid by regular deductions from pay packets and there will be more chances for community service instead of jail, David Ford added.

But he warned that Stormont's Justice Bill would improve arrangements for collection and enforcement of financial penalties set by courts.

He said: "The Bill will allow penalties to be paid by regular deductions from income and will provide better opportunities for community service instead of prison.

"At the same time, it provides a deterrent for those who might wilfully default by increasing the length of time they might then spend in prison."

For many years Northern Ireland has been experiencing a significant problem of fine default, with many people ending up in prison for the non-payment of what can be relatively small fines.

The Bill aimed at addressing that had its second stage debate in the Assembly.

It also creates an early removal scheme for prisoners already subject to deportation to return to their home country and places the Office of the Prison Ombudsman on a statutory basis.

The draft legislation also broadens the offence of the possession of extreme pornography in keeping with that in England, Wales and Scotland.

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